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Growing Up Dead in Texas [Kindle Edition]

Stephen Graham Jones
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jones combines memoir and mystery in his latest novel (after Zombie Bake-Off), returning to his hometown of Greenwood, Texas, to explore a decades-old crime that would rend a community irrevocably asunder. In 1985, when the author is just 12 years old, a suspicious fire decimates Greenwood's cotton crop and threatens many of the townsfolk's livelihoods. Local teen Tommy Moore is caught in the field with an incriminatingly lit cigarette, and his savage beating by a descendant of the community's largest landowning family kicks off a tragic cycle of retribution that exacerbates longstanding conflicts amongst the people of Greenwood. Drawing from memory, interviews, and town legend, Jones acknowledges that he's an unreliable narrator, and that his story is "piecemeal, secondhand, polluted, cleaned-up then tore down." The book is an ambitious hybrid of fact and myth, past and present, that calls into question the nature of truth itself. While its sprawling web of characters and story lines may seem convoluted at times, the novel is unified by Jones's rhythmic prose and his evident compassion for his former neighbors' tragedies--both personal and pastoral. (June)
Reviewed on: 09/03/2012
It was a fire that could be seen for miles, a fire that split the community, a fire that turned families on each other, a fire that it's still hard to get a straight answer about. A quarter of a century ago, someone held a match to Greenwood, Texas's cotton.

Stephen Graham Jones was twelve that year. What he remembers best, what's stuck with him all this time, is that nobody ever came forward to claim that destruction.

And nobody was ever caught.

Greenwood just leaned forward into next year's work, and the year after that, pretending that the fire had never happened. But it had.

This fire, it didn't start twenty-five years ago. It had been smoldering for years by then. And everybody knew it. Getting them to say anything about it's another thing, though. Some secrets were buried on purpose.

Now Stephen's going back the only way he knows how: with a pen. His first time back since he graduated high school. There's questions to be asked, there's stories to be recorded, and pieces of other stories that can be put together.

Packed with small-town paranoia, mystery, and more secrets than your average graveyard, Growing Up Dead in Texas is Stephen Graham Jones' breakout novel. It's a story about farming. It's a story about Texas. It's a story about finally standing up from the dead, and walking away. And then going back one more time, when it's supposed to have been long enough ago already that you can deal with it as just events, as just facts.
In the tradition of Robert McCammon's A Boy's Life and Tobias Wolff's This Boy's LifeGrowing up Dead in Texas is a narrative lens onto the past, to see where things started. And where they keep starting again and again.

Editorial Reviews


What a wonderful book. Has all the flavor of memoir and all the miracle of fiction. I loved this book.   --  Joe R. Lansdale
We write novels and maybe read them to feel briefly new and alive. But novels are always taking us back through the pasts none of us want to admit. Growing up Dead in Texas is that thrilling resurrection--the life inside death and the death inside life. Trust me. I lived in West Texas. Stephen Graham Jones' book took my breath away and gave it back to me. This book is brilliant. -- Lidia Yuknavitch
Like finding my own diary from the years I'd forgotten, blacked out. Not so much reading, but more like remembering events I hadn't actually lived through. I can't say enough good things about this book.   --  Craig Clevenger

About the Author

Stephen Graham Jones is the author of nine novels and two collections. He's been a Shirley Jackson Award finalist three times, a Bram Stoker Award finalist, a Black Quill Award finalist, an International Horror Guild finalist, a Colorado Book Award Finalist, a Texas Monthly Book Selection, and has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction, the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, and he's been an NEA Fellow. He lives in Boulder, CO.

Product Details

  • File Size: 489 KB
  • Print Length: 350 pages
  • Publisher: MP Publishing Limited (April 30, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0081I8P5K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #691,164 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Did this happen to you too? June 4, 2012
By Ren
Growing Up Dead in Texas does strange things to your head.
Stephen Graham Jones delivers a masterfully executed novel epic here, riffing on an American Gothic trip in his own inimitable and handsome style. The book bills itself as "part mystery, part memoir," but that pitch is really selling this short, as this should be, to me, a quintessential novel of coming of age in a small town, or of boyhood itself, much like (sourcing from my own ideal reading,) Harry Crews's A Childhood or Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes.
The story here concerns Greenwood, Texas in 1985. The year's reap of cotton is burned to the ground. This act launches a long line of grief, paranoia, and retribution in the small farming community, a line that moves forward and back through generations.
The mystery, I think, while ultimately evocative, is more to appease our inner rational detective, I would traverse the events in the book easily without it, but it is necessary; the narrative is so rich and engaging that I could just as well crawl inside the wardrobe and live inside this world forever if it weren't for the confines of the mystery.
The play with the memoir framework may seem just that, what in the wake of James Frey and his ilk, and it is at times servicing catchy first-person lines and speaking metatextually on the tropes of non-fiction, a commentary to the memoir style (though I was more fraught with thoughts on the structure of true crime and A&E TV specials than memoirs,) but it serves a much deeper purpose than that. (I point out that Jones himself is present more as narrator than actual character, physically doing things and going places, in the book.) What this does is it obliterates the constraints in our minds of the tag "fiction.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something like History May 17, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
We all come from somewhere, and some of us have the luxury of leaving that place far behind. So far back that it's not even a memory but a suggestion, but then for a few, there's a call to return. Stephen Graham Jones went back home to East Texas, where during his youth a fire burned through fields of cotton and the lives of a small town that's as close as any, which if you've ever lived in a small town, you know how interconnected life can get. A step away from the genre he dabbles with, here Jones goes closer to his own life than even he is comfortable with. The problems build and history congeals. There simply are not enough good words to talk about this novel. I waited a week to go back for those last twenty pages, just to milk a little more time therein that small town.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel-made sense of the past June 5, 2012
Stephen Graham Jones seems to tumble headlong into his stories with you, as if writing by the glow of a fervent promise on the previous page. This is even at his worst. Growing Up Dead In Texas feels like he's making sense of something big the way only a novel can, with everything on the line for everyone, including him. He pieces together a fire that burnt through the cotton crops and lives of his small East Texas hometown, finding sense in there with you. I don't think he'd have survived not finishing this book.

Growing Up Dead In Texas is like nothing else I've ever read. Almost a biography, and mostly a novel, it skirts this faint line I didn't even know was there. It's surprising and unreally real, and it pays off.

I can't recommend this book enough.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stephen's small town June 21, 2012
How do I convince people how great this book is and get them to want to read it? Short of saying `You need to read this book' over and over again I will try to say something that expresses how much you should read it.
On the surface it's about a fire that took out twenty-five modules of cotton. That is a major topic throughout the book, but it's just the beginning. In almost three hundred pages we are shown life in the small town of Greenwood, and follow Stephen Graham Jones as he pieces together all the events that followed that fire.
If you've read anything by SGJ then I don't need to say that his writing is superb. But in this novel he goes beyond anything I've read from him before. It's stellar, it's awesome, or maybe it deserves a new word created just to describe it. This isn't a start at point A and end up at point B kind of book though. We are introduced to situations in chapter one that seem innocent at a glance, but when we revisit them in chapter eleven we understand the true meaning. He slips through various tales with ease. He stops one story in chapter two with `and that's how I want to leave them for now.', and picks it back up in chapter three after filling in some gaps and interjecting bits about himself from this time period.
This is a book about Hot Wheels, it's also about telephones and calling people. It's about the tournament game short, not one, but two players. It's about family, family that has been lost and family that you protect. It doesn't really matter what I say this book is about, you should just read it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome vision of West Texas on fire June 27, 2012
By Bill C
So a new book by Stephen Graham Jones is always a treat, but Growing Up Dead in Texas is extra special, being a story that plays on the (sometimes) fine line between truth and fiction. It's set in the cotton-farming heartland of West Texas, in the prairie zone of small towns that lurk in the shadow of Lubbock and Midland-Odessa, but conjures up its own wicked landscape of the mind. I was hooked from the title on, but the description of the cotton-bale fires and the weird reality of the smalltown kids who grow up with the land in their hearts and minds make it stand out. Part of it is a coming-of-age story, detailing the author's alter-ego playing basketball and trying to stay alive amidst the ordinary mayhem of high school years. It reminds me of several great songs, but particularly Jim Carroll's "People Who Died" and Bruce Springsteen's "Lost in the Flood." Ultimately it's a mystery story, full of anguish, redemption, and release. Read it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars One of the worst books I've read
I found it totally confusing,but I was intrigued, so I finished it, hoping the author would make it clear by the end. Read more
Published 1 month ago by K. Lamkin
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard to follow.
I had a really hard time following this story, and by the time I finished it, I still didn't know who started the fire. Read more
Published 15 months ago by BLS59
1.0 out of 5 stars LOUSY
There is probably a half way decent book in here, but the author skips around way too much. I couldn't figure out what was going on in his story
Published 17 months ago by H. Morey
5.0 out of 5 stars "Sometimes life, it is a story."
I loved "Growing Up Dead in Texas," from its cover art to its title to the pages of lush, flowing prose. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Cheryl Stout
5.0 out of 5 stars Because it's awesome
Well, I read the first two pages and they didn't make me want to run the other way. In fact, they drew me in the way I wish my own writing would. Read more
Published on February 12, 2013 by Bret Fowler
5.0 out of 5 stars Like nothing I've read before
Fast pace and kept me guessing the whole way through. Stephen's style is unique in the way it sometimes seems to roll along out of control, and then--maybe three or four pages... Read more
Published on January 9, 2013 by Ian Gammie
1.0 out of 5 stars Strong dislike
I am sorry to say that I strongly disliked this book. I put it on my kindle after reading the glowing reviews. I only made it through 13% and gave up. Read more
Published on December 11, 2012 by Kara's Gram
1.0 out of 5 stars One of the worst, if not THE worst book I've ever read
This book is one long annoying mess. And, it's a rambling stream of consciousness blather of partial sentences that doesn't tell the reader much of anything. Read more
Published on November 16, 2012 by Eddie Webster
1.0 out of 5 stars confusing
I got this book based on comments saying it was like 'No Country for Old Men'. Boy was I dissapointed. It was confusing to read and not at all having any of the qualities of NCfOM. Read more
Published on October 1, 2012 by robert whatmough
2.0 out of 5 stars Depends on Your Preferences
What you think of this work depends on what you like about reading. If, for example you like meta-fiction with passages such as something like: "Is this book a piece of fiction or... Read more
Published on September 23, 2012 by JPJ
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More About the Author

Born and raised in Texas. In Boulder, Colorado now. Forty-three. Blackfeet. Into werewolves and slashers and zombies. Would wear pirate shirts a lot if I could find them. And probably carry some kind of sword. More over at or @SGJ72

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