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Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir Hardcover – February 28, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Villard (February 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345516028
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345516022
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #328,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Surprisingly funny and uplifting, this touching account of a deaf family living on the edge is raw and candid. Crews writes beautifully, honestly, and with deep affection about her conflicted relationship with her father and her love for her family, in good times and bad.”—Paula Froelich, author of the New York Times bestseller Mercury in Retrograde

“Kambri Crews is an exceptional writer. Her voice is fresh, fearless, and singular—with an ability to craft a story you will never be able to forget, but also won’t be able to stop talking about.”—Mandy Stadtmiller, columnist, New York Post

“A riveting American tale, delivered with clear eyes and great love. In the face of incredible hardship, Crews endures.”—Jane Borden, author of I Totally Meant to Do That

“Addictive and heartbreaking, Kambri’s memoir demonstrates both true grit and a sense of humor that exists only among the very sharpest of those who have survived extraordinary childhoods.”—Julie Klausner, author of I Don’t Care About Your Band

“Imagine living in a tin shed, growing up as the hearing child of deaf parents, seeing your father attack your mother, or sneaking gum into prison. Those are just half of the challenges Kambri Crews faced growing up. Burn Down the Ground is a story of triumph in the face of poverty, alcoholism, violence, and, worst of all, heartbreakingly powerful love.”—Annabelle Gurwitch, co-author of You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up

“In my eyes, Kambri Crews is a heroine. It takes a person—a survivor—with a miraculous magnitude of strength to be able to see the human side of her father in spite of what he did.”—Julie Rems-Smario, executive director, DeafHope

“Kambri Crews is a survivor, and a fiercely witty one. Her memories of growing up with two volatile deaf parents in the backwoods of Texas will inspire, delight, horrify, and amaze you. The matter-of-fact way in which she describes traumatic and painful events puts me in mind of Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle, Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, and Rick Bragg’s All Over but the Shoutin’. Read this unforgettable account of an American family’s tragic explosion and the tough-as-nails young woman who walked out of the ashes to tell her tale.”—Sara Benincasa, author of Agorafabulous

"As well-paced and stirring as a novel.  In her fluid narrative … Crews neither wallows in self-pity nor plays for cheap black-comedic yuks.  Instead, this book stands out for what matters most: Crews’ story, bluntly told.” —Elle Magazine
“[An] unsparing yet compassionate account of [Crews’] dysfunctional childhood and the father who both charmed and victimized her family… Poignant and unsettling.” —Kirkus
Harrowing…What Kambri has done is face the truth with an unflinching eye… a remarkable odyssey of scorched earth, collateral damage, and survival… intensely readable.” —Publishers Weekly
“[A] vivid and affectionate depiction of life with two deaf parents.. like Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club, Burn Down the Ground interweaves the toughness and laughter of an impoverished Texan childhood… Her story is a testament to her resilience, and to the power of recognition and forgiveness to heal childhood wounds.” —BookPage
“[Crews] renders a compelling testament to the strength of the human spirit.”

More About the Author

Kambri Crews owns her own PR and production company specializing in comedy. A renowned storyteller and public speaker, she has appeared at the Moth, Upright Citizen's Brigade, and SXSW Interactive. She splits her time between Astoria, Queens, and Cochecton, New York, with her husband, comedian Christian Finnegan.

Visit www.kambricrews.com for more.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 64 customer reviews
Kambri Crews is so genuine as she shares her moving story.
J. K. Luebbert
This author still has a long life to live but has endured so much more than someone like me.
If she thinks she has another book in her, I will look forward to reading it.
S. Albert

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By elemenoP on March 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I stayed up past my bedtime to finish Burn Down The Ground. Crews is a fantastic storyteller who you can't help but root for. In the midst of chaos and violence, she finds hope and humor.

This would make a great book club pick. Heck, I might even start a book club and make this the first book we read.

Highly highly recommended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Timothy J. Bazzett on February 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I love memoirs, and Kambri Crews' BURN DOWN THE GROUND could very well turn out to be one of the best of 2012 - and it's her first book too. If Crews is like many women, she probably doesn't particularly like being reminded of her age, but I'm gonna say it anyway, because she's only forty, which seems kinda young to be writing your memoirs. But the fact is she had a story worth telling - that she NEEDED to tell - and she does a fine job of it.

BURN DOWN THE GROUND is a magical mix of the ordinary and horrific, the story of a girl born to deaf parents. Kambri Crews was a "CODA" (child of deaf adults) in the parlance of the Deaf Community. She goes on to explain -

"The Deaf have their own language, arts, churches, and universities. Because of this, they are strongly bonded through shared history and life experiences, and view themselves as a distinct society."

The trouble is, deaf people also have to make a living, which is usually found in the world of the Hearing Community. And this does not always go smoothly. Crews' father, Ted Crews, was a particularly tragic case of this, a man who could never quite make that transition for long, although he was a man of many talents and skills in the world of carpentry and most areas of general contracting. Crews cannot really say for sure why her father had so many problems with authority and normal work routines. She did learn something of his childhood as a boarding student at an Oklahoma school for the deaf from the age of seven. Too young to understand, he thought his father had abandoned him there and perhaps never quite got over that.

She mentions too that her father's deafness made him feel insecure and paranoid, feelings which often escalated into jealousy, anger and violence, usually directed at her mother.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gilkison on April 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
It might be trite to say "I could not put this book down" but it is the truth. Such a good read. The author spins humor and heartache in such an honest way. It opens the door and gives understanding to the nuances of the Deaf community. She does not hide from her upbringing, in fact, she embraces it. Brutally honest look and a difficult upbringing and what it is like to emerge at the other side intact.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By booksbysteph on May 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The only thing I hated about this book was having to put it down and go to sleep! When the author told stories about her Dad when she was young, my eyes got misty remembering doing the same things with my Dad when I was young. Back in the day when you could ride in the bed of a pickup truck and Dad would let me drive the straight back road home. Trying to please him by wanting to help him do things, only to be disappointed that the position was taken by my older brother. Wheelbarrow rides around the yard and fighting off daddy longlegs during camping trips (man those suckers can get really big).

There were times that my brother hurt me and my mother did not listen. I had bad hair, bad skin, braces, thick glasses and clothes from K-mart when I entered junior high. Fortunately, God blessed me with a big rack, so that took the boy's eyes away from my face. I changed and grew with every move to a new home. My parents only had horrible screaming fights but my brother's destructive behavior caused physical fights with my Dad.
Anyone who reads this book will find a part of themselves in it. This author still has a long life to live but has endured so much more than someone like me. My life broke me, but Kambri got stronger. Whether she put up a wall to keep the pain out, put all her energy into school and work, or ran away to different states, I cannot imagine how I would cope if my Dad was in prison for attempted murder. Her Dad was the reason her family broke up and went their separate ways, but his imprisonment has brought them back together in one form or another. I do not think I could sit across from my Dad in a prison visiting room while he denied facts and only asked for money. Kambri has forgiven her Dad and has accepted who he is. "It can't be pretty without being ugly first." The Crews family has burned down the ground, best wishes for growing new, bright and healthy.

If you don't believe me, check it out for yourself!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By MurphysLaw58 on April 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
About halfway through thic book I had to ask myself why I read so many memoirs. One reason might be that I am looking for the comfort of reading about someone with a similar background to my own. Crews satisfied that need for me. Although she is 13 years younger than I am, her formative years were very similar to mine - living in meager circumstances in a family with little communication of consequence. She lived a somewhat sheltered life, spending most of her time with her family and with few, if any, close friends. She read, swam, played games with her family, played basketball and ran around the countryside where they lived. She was isolated from our parents, because they were deaf. If you call out in the middle of the night when you were scared, no one can hear you to come comfort you.

At first, Crews' writing was humorous in a surprising way, and I read passages out loud to my husband. The writing is clear, simple and well-paced, but a little uneven. The surprising humor gave way to a matter-of-fact telling of growing up uncertain of where they would be living the next year. Violence enters their family life, and Crews conveys her fear well, but I felt that the writing changed again at that point. Crews' experiences reflect what happens to many families when the violence is hidden or when it is connected to psychological problems. Of value in this book is Crews' description of what happens if we don't recognize the trauma that victims of violence experience.

I was most interested in a this book because of the child's view of the Deaf community. I learned some things I hadn't known before, like that deaf people can be loud neighbors because they don't realize they are making noise.
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