Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Review: No Place Safe

I should start out saying I generally like memoirs, but I’m pretty selective. Awhile back, when checking out a literary agent's blog, she mentioned this book and posted an excerpt. I was hooked and had to go out and get it.

Kim Reid's memoir No Place Safe reads like a novel, and an intriguing one at that. It's easy to see why she won the Colorado Book Award in Creative Nonfiction. It's amazing.

Set in Atlanta from 1979 through 1981, it tracks her family's life during the Atlanta Child Murders, which I remember well. Her mother, a single mother and one of the most inspiring and incredible women I've ever read on the printed page, is an investigator for the DA's office and is assigned to the case. This leaves young Kim, who is 14 the summer of the first killing, in charge of her younger sister. As her mother becomes more and more enmeshed in the investigation, Kim soon finds herself running the household as well as trying to emotionally support and care for her mother.

In the midst of this she begins high school, tranferring to an all-white school in an affluent part of the city. She struggles to find her way, trying to fit in with the rich white kids while remaining true to her roots. The pain, confusion and anger the young girl deals with feels like a heat rising off the printed page. You cannot help but be pulled into her world, and see how her life--and the life of her family--is being changed forever.

This book, while nonfiction and a personal memoir, reads like a thriller on one hand, and a poignant coming-of-age story on the other. Her writing is honest, fresh and lively. I absolutely could not put it down.

I am dismayed after having read No Place Safe, to see on the agent's blog (click here to read the excerpt: that this book is erroneously placed in African-American studies. I fear it won't get the attention it deserves there. It should be with the other memoirs and autobiographies where it belongs. Don't let the opportunity pass you by to read this heartfelt, well written book. I'm so glad I didn't.

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