The story of an African-American born shortly before the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Davidson’s (When Clans Collide, 2013, etc.) second memoir of a planned trilogy picks up where his previous book left off: his parents’ migration to the industrial North from the agricultural South, where they experienced institutional discrimination. At one point, Davidson recounts a moment of “discombobulation” after a classmate socked him on the jaw, leaving him bewildered and angry. These two feelings went on to comprise most of his reactions to events in his life, including his involvement in a neighborhood he dubs “Stupidville,” where drugs ran rampant and danger lurked. Davidson offers abstract descriptions of his interactions in Stupidville, rather than recounting his substance abuse in detail, but his reckless ways led him to blow paychecks earned during stints as a lineman in Detroit car factories and as a general laborer and made him miss the birth of his first daughter. Davidson finally escaped Stupidville, if not all the habits he learned there, when he joined the military in 1979 at the age of 28. The next decade saw him divorce his first wife and marry a woman he met in the military, eventually moving with her and their daughters to a string of Army bases in Germany, Arizona, Alaska, and Missouri. Later, Davidson earned a Ph.D., became a teacher, and joined the Toastmaster’s Club in order to become a practiced public speaker. Throughout this slow-paced book, Davidson often digresses, describing seemingly insignificant vignettes in an almost gossipy tone. The book’s structure breaks up his life into four segments centered mainly on his childhood, young-adulthood, military career, and present-day life. He does weave in colorful details from each era, describing music, reflecting on popular culture, and offering his views of important historical events. Each section ends with a list of milestones, along with what he calls “knucklehead incidents”—the results of foolish choices that he and his cohorts made. Although Davidson’s memoir isn’t explicitly about overcoming substance abuse, it takes a redemptive view of his rise from “Stupidville” while also remaining wary of the threat of slipping back into his old ways. He effectively presents his story as a cautionary tale marred by drugs, violence, anger issues, and infidelity.
A long-winded but immersive chronicle.