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Them: A Novel Paperback – August 19, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; Reprint edition (August 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416549161
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416549161
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.4 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The embattled characters who people McCall's trenchant, slyly humorous debut novel (following the 1994 memoir Makes Me Wanna Holler and a 1997 essay collection) can't escape gentrification, whether as victim or perpetrator. As he turns 40, Barlowe Reed, who is black, moves to buy the home he's long rented in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward, the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. His timing is bad: whites have taken note of the cheap, rehab-ready houses in the historically black neighborhood and, as Barlowe's elderly neighbor says to him, They comin. Skyrocketing housing prices and the new neighbors' presumptuousness anger Barlowe, whose 20-something nephew is staying with him, and other longtime residents, who feel invaded and threatened. Battle lines are drawn, but when a white couple moves in next door to Barlowe, the results are surprising. Masterfully orchestrated and deeply disturbing illustrations of the depth of the racial divide play out behind the scrim of Barlowe's awkward attempts to have conversations in public with new white neighbor Sandy. McCall also beautifully weaves in the decades-long local struggle over King's legacy, including the moment when a candidate for King's church's open pulpit is rejected for linguistic lapses... unbefitting of the crisp doctoral eloquence of Martin Luther King. McCall nails such details again and again, and the results, if less than hopeful, are poignant and grimly funny. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Former Washington Post reporter Nathan McCall’s previous work includes a memoir and a collection of essays. Like the characters in this debut novel, reviewers agreed that the ground covered in Them is valuable, but they disagreed over how it should be treated. While all critics thought that Barlowe is a complex protagonist and a fascinating black voice, many thought that McCall’s white characters are little more than stereotypes. Some reviewers interpreted these characters’ lack of depth as satire; others saw it as a realistic portrayal of how some people behave in a racially charged environment. The novel’s subject matter, gentrification, is a problem that few in America, white or black, have really figured out how to solve. As a result, most critics were willing to forgive the work’s shortcomings in the hope that its readers will learn to forgive as well.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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See all 45 customer reviews
The story, on its own is very interesting and entertaining.
J. Pollack
Them is an excellent choice for individuals looking for a thought-provoking read and a great catalyst for book club discussions.
M. P. McKinney
Though the actor reading the story may have contributed to this, the characters felt underdeveloped and very cliched.
milanina77

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Jason Frost TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I read Mr. McCall's 'Makes me Wanna Holler' when I was a younger and still not yet a man. I read it and throughout the book I was saying "yeah", "that's right", and "exactly". It was very good for me to read something from someone who knew EXACTLY how I felt. When I saw he had a fictional book coming out I knew I had to read it.

This book is an awesome novel about "them". The question is who is "them"? Are you a "them"? Is your neighboor a "them"? Is your boss a "them"? Well, it all depends on who YOU are. Unlike other books on race relations this one gives us a view from both sides while slightly favoring one side. Entertaining, a little political, at times gritty, eye-opening, very well written, and a great book to read for your book club, to/with your kids, and discuss with co-workers.

Hopefully this won't be this authors last work of fiction.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By M. P. McKinney on November 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Nathan McCall's novel, Them, depicts the gentrification of Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. Barlowe Reed, a single, middle-aged loner, and his nephew Tyrone, have been residents of the Old Fourth Ward for several years. Barlowe is wary of Caesar in all forms: government, bureaucracy, law enforcement, even flags. His feelings of distrust are deepened with the influx of new, white residents into their neighborhood which is rich with the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The racial tension in the neighborhood escalates, pitting black residents against white residents.

One white couple, Sean and Sandy Gilmore, buy the house right next door to Barlowe. Sandy and Barlowe hesitantly begin chatting over the backyard fence attempting to find understanding and common ground amidst the growing confusion and resentment building in the neighborhood.

McCall pulls no punches in Them as he excavates the multiple layers of struggle, history, pride, and hope that the neighborhood holds for its' residents. Them poses many questions about the gentrification process, yet offers little in the way of concrete answers. McCall's use of dialect, well-developed characters and detailed setting encourages readers to become invested in the residents of the Old Fourth Ward. Them is an excellent choice for individuals looking for a thought-provoking read and a great catalyst for book club discussions.

Reviewed by M. P. McKinney
APOOO BookClub
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Richard A. Jenkins on December 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
McCall's book interested me because I used to live in another gentrified Atlanta neighborhood, Kirkwood and unlike previous accounts of gentrification, the emphasis was on the gentrified. I'd also read and liked McCall's "Makes Me Wanna Holler". When I first looked at houses, my broker had suggested looking at the Old Fourth Ward, which then was just beginning to see redevelopment. The area didn't appeal to me because it lacked "amenities"--the rapid transit was inconvenient to most of the neighborhood and the shopping didn't amount to much beyond neighborhood mini-marts, plus it would have meant an even more inconvenient commute than the one I already had. Basically, like much of intown Atlanta, it was carbound and not very "urban" even though the "urban" location was supposed to be the appeal. Over the next 7 years, I frequently drove through the Old Fourth Ward on my way to other places and watched its rapid evolution.

McCall is at his best when he takes the perspective of Barlowe, a middle aged African-American man who finds himself with two not-always-well-meaning White gentrifiers next door. The changes in the neighborhood are reflected in Barlowe. He considers home ownership, deals with the puzzling motives and behavior of his neighbors and grapples with change. The couple next door are less well drawn. The wife is characterized as a former campus activist who works for a social service agency in Atlanta, yet has no experience with people like her neighbors. One would have expected her to seek out neighbors like her Black middle class colleagues or to show the naive, sometimes condescending attitude of many junior people in the helping professions. Instead, she comes across as good natured but unable to draw on her activist or occupational background.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tavares S. Carney VINE VOICE on January 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Gentrification (dictionary.com) - the buying and renovation of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods by upper- or middle-income families or individuals, thus improving property values but often displacing low-income families and small businesses.

In Nathan McCall's second release, the issue at hand is the gentrification of Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward, heavily populated by African-Americans who have become comfortable within their own zone and accustom to their way of life. The neighborhood enters a phase of change because "they" start moving in. Most African Americans in the neighborhood - like main character, Barlowe Reed, are uncomfortable with accepting the change due to innate feelings of there simply being just "too much water under the bridge." Cohabitating with seemingly concerned others is a notion hardly acceptable. While reading this novel, I got the impression that Barlowe felt victimized by "the system" and simply became comfortable with his personal status quo because prior experience had proven him powerless in many ways, all because of his heritage. The sight of the American flag, not really being happy with his Caucasian supervisor's treatment towards him and the uneasiness he feels when he starts seeing the trickle of "them" moving into his neighborhood - all represent things, situations or people he feels can take something from him. I got the sense Barlowe feels he doesn't own or have rights to anything - a corner in the world he can call his own. The Old Fourth Ward goes through a period where the community is at odds due to a series of mishaps and downright misunderstandings that occur as more of "them" move in. The neighborhood becomes tense as the racial divide continues to grow.
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