photo by Sheri Dixon

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bargain Book Discovery- "Them"

First, a confession. I paid more than $5 for this book. I paid $6 for this book BUT it's a hardcover, not a paperback.

"Them" by Nathan McCall is set in present day Atlanta, and is a study of relationships- racial, class, gender, educational, all focused on the two main characters- Barlowe Reed, middle aged black man who works at a print shop and Sandy Gilmore, just under middle aged white woman who, with her husband Sean, buys the house next door to Barlowe's rental.

The old 4th ward is home to the Martin Luther King Memorial, and is undergoing "urban renewal", which looks like two very different things depending on whose eyes you're looking through.

The book is peopled with a cast of characters who all behave pretty much stereotypically on both sides, as people tend to do in real life- having pre-conceived notions and...stereotypes and all.

"Them" is how each group refers to the other- as a chunk of knitted together yet interchangeable pieces instead of individuals.

Barlowe and Sandy don't really like each other, don't really trust each other, and hard as they try not to each of them constantly misunderstands the other- seeing a brilliant flash of the other's truths just out of their line of mental vision, but not quite being able to see it fully.

"Them" is not the type of book I'd usually pick up, but we drive through several "urban renewal" neighborhoods in Houston every time we go to the hospital, and they intrigue me- they always seem hopeful yet sullen, gracious decay giving way to stark renovation.

There's a certain look of dogged determination of the faces of all of "Them"- the residents being pushed out, and the new homeowners, and "Them" helped me understand more than the architectural changes taking place, but the motivations and inevitable fears behind all those determined faces.


  1. Atlanta is wonderful setting for that type of interplay between characters. I don't know whether you've read Hollis Gillespie (Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch). She covers someof those issues in her real life as she and her friends purchased property in the old areas of Atlanta that are making a comeback.

  2. I haven't- but I love the title so now I must.