Monday, May 21, 2012

Jimmy James Blood by Missy Anne

The best novel about working class northwest youth.
Jimmy James Blood by Missy Anne is a self-published first novel from a local Mason County author. The Total Bummer Bookclub called Jimmy James Blood "Shelton, Washington's version of Bastard Out of Carolina" and that's pretty accurate. It is a coming of age story that uses the natural landscape of the pacific northwest to explore the theme of poverty and environmental destruction familiar to those of us who grew up in logging/timber towns. In that sense, it is very similar to The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy but also reminds me of Winter's Bone or maybe The Beans of Egypt, Maine. There's a little bit of S.E. Hinton or Over The Edge at work too but without the sappy romanticism. For me it evokes the heartbreakingly tragic Jon Jost movie The Bed You Sleep In most of all, which remains the harshest yet most true-to-life portrayal of the northwest I have yet seen captured on film. The book really takes it to another level when Vera Violet escapes to St. Louis where she learns about urban poverty struggling to survive working at an inner city school in a low income neighborhood that resembles an industrial wasteland not dissimilar from Mason County.

Shelton is just up the highway from Aberdeen. Missy Anne is the literary voice of the dispossessed NW youth that we've come to know so well through song. Intrigued? You should be! This is a fantastic book. I read the entire thing in one sitting. I still can't believe I know the person who wrote it.

1 comment:

Vittrice said...

This book is raw power. Missy Anne's description of the transition in timber country from agrarian work ethic and rural freedom to the industrialization and leveraged buyouts of late, 20th century forestry is the most comprehensive and articulate description of capital and class I've ever read. It’s a story that can be transposed on industries, towns, and people around the world.

But it’s not an analysis, it’s a love story – of family, of place, of a lost era - told in a voice that is as stripped down and sparse as a clearcut. You can’t stop reading because of the immediacy of her descriptions and she cuts you to the bone with her honesty. I’ve never read/heard a voice like hers in literature - and it’s thrilling.

As I read, my heart spiraled down as the lights and dignity of timber county slowly dimmed.

I loved this book.