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Arts & Culture

'Burn Down' delivers true American Gothic

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The discomforting cliché that out of bad pain comes good comedy — an assurance that has, in some form or other, been made by acerbic jokers from Mark Twain to Bernie Mac — is nothing to scoff at.

After reading actress/comedian/talent promoter Kambri Crews' memoir Burn Down The Ground, one might suspect that a knack for multitasking might, out of strife, emerge as well. With a back story that you wouldn't wish upon a Joyce Carol Oates character, Kambri Crews details the subtle terrors of living in a tin shack with an abusive yet sociopathically charming father who was never without a can of Coors and a beautiful bowling champ mother who plotted (enabled?) their rural respite as a way to keep her husband from messing around. Both of her parents are deaf; Kambri, along with her brother, can hear. This makes for less miscommunication than you might guess, and the young woman, who would go on to make a living from her skills at audible communication wishes, in an outsider's despair, to be deaf as well.

Burn Down the Ground is a true American Gothic, a Shirley Jackson scenario writ real. At a bowling alley, on the eve of night that would change her life forever, Crews recalls her desire to see familial affection. "Some kids might have been embarrassed at seeing their parents affectionate, but I never was. I loved watching them kiss and cuddle. I was too young to understand my father's motives and see that he was playing upon Mom's weakness: her determination to appear strong, in control, and poised like the woman her fans adored."

Within its harrowing episodes of snakes, fire, the dread of an outhouse, and a quashed optimism amid a yearning for signs of structure, Burn Down the Ground is more than a memoir about survival; it is memoir about surviving with a sense of humor.

Burn Down the Ground

by Kambri Crews Villard
$25.00, 352 pages

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