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Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist, A Memoir

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Fear and What Follows is a riveting, unflinching account of the author's spiral into racist violence during the latter years of desegregation in 1960s and 1970s Baton Rouge. About the memoir, author and editor Michael Griffith writes, "This might be a controversial book, in the best way--controversial because it speaks to real and intractable problems and speaks to them wi Fear and What Follows is a riveting, unflinching account of the author's spiral into racist violence during the latter years of desegregation in 1960s and 1970s Baton Rouge. About the memoir, author and editor Michael Griffith writes, "This might be a controversial book, in the best way--controversial because it speaks to real and intractable problems and speaks to them with rare bluntness." The narrative of Parrish's descent into fear and irrational behavior begins with bigotry and apocalyptic thinking in his Southern Baptist church. Living a life upon this volatile foundation of prejudice and apprehension, Parrish feels destabilized by his brother going to Vietnam, his own puberty and restlessness, serious family illness, and economic uncertainty. Then a near-fatal street fight and subsequent stalking by an older sociopath fracture what security is left, leaving him terrified and seemingly helpless. Parrish comes to believe that he can only be safe by allying himself with brute force. This brute influence is a vicious, charismatic racist. Under this bigot's terrible sway Parrish, turns to violence in the street and at school. He is even conflicted about whether he will help commit murder in order to avenge a friend. At seventeen he must reckon with all of this as his parents and neighbors grow increasingly afraid that they are "losing" their neighborhood to African Americans. Fear and What Follows is an unparalleled story of the complex roots of southern, urban, working-class racism and white flight, as well as a story of family, love, and the possibility of redemption.


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Fear and What Follows is a riveting, unflinching account of the author's spiral into racist violence during the latter years of desegregation in 1960s and 1970s Baton Rouge. About the memoir, author and editor Michael Griffith writes, "This might be a controversial book, in the best way--controversial because it speaks to real and intractable problems and speaks to them wi Fear and What Follows is a riveting, unflinching account of the author's spiral into racist violence during the latter years of desegregation in 1960s and 1970s Baton Rouge. About the memoir, author and editor Michael Griffith writes, "This might be a controversial book, in the best way--controversial because it speaks to real and intractable problems and speaks to them with rare bluntness." The narrative of Parrish's descent into fear and irrational behavior begins with bigotry and apocalyptic thinking in his Southern Baptist church. Living a life upon this volatile foundation of prejudice and apprehension, Parrish feels destabilized by his brother going to Vietnam, his own puberty and restlessness, serious family illness, and economic uncertainty. Then a near-fatal street fight and subsequent stalking by an older sociopath fracture what security is left, leaving him terrified and seemingly helpless. Parrish comes to believe that he can only be safe by allying himself with brute force. This brute influence is a vicious, charismatic racist. Under this bigot's terrible sway Parrish, turns to violence in the street and at school. He is even conflicted about whether he will help commit murder in order to avenge a friend. At seventeen he must reckon with all of this as his parents and neighbors grow increasingly afraid that they are "losing" their neighborhood to African Americans. Fear and What Follows is an unparalleled story of the complex roots of southern, urban, working-class racism and white flight, as well as a story of family, love, and the possibility of redemption.

30 review for Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist, A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Frannie

    Having known Tim Parrish in the 1990s in Tuscaloosa, where we ran in the same large (Chukker-based, mostly) circle and I often found myself alcohol-bonding with his brother Robert, this book almost felt like spying - like I'd found the private journal of an acquaintance and succumbed to an invasion of privacy. But, once I got past that, I was absolutely hooked. I loved what this story revealed about race & class in the south in the 1970s (and before; and after). I was fascinated (as if by a bad Having known Tim Parrish in the 1990s in Tuscaloosa, where we ran in the same large (Chukker-based, mostly) circle and I often found myself alcohol-bonding with his brother Robert, this book almost felt like spying - like I'd found the private journal of an acquaintance and succumbed to an invasion of privacy. But, once I got past that, I was absolutely hooked. I loved what this story revealed about race & class in the south in the 1970s (and before; and after). I was fascinated (as if by a bad car wreck) thinking about how this world Tim writes about wasn't so far away geographically from the world I came to inhabit during my high school years in rural Alabama (1979-1982). Was this rage lurking below the surface? There wasn't violence that I recall in my high school, but how many people had friends of friends (and cousins, etc.) who had grown up in bigger cities and attended high school only a few years prior? Such fear. Such hate. I see now why Tim got his 15 (and more) minutes of fame this past summer amidst Black Lives Matter protests around the country. I see now how much the fear of change then is akin to the fear of change now - how much resentment still lurks. And, above all, how absolutely fucked Trump's "Make America Great" slogan is - great as in back when there was Jim Crow? great as in back when the Klan was open? great as in back when it was perfectly acceptable to see black people as sub-human? great as in back when we had slavery? etc., etc. This book is all of that. And, more. It's a window into the pain & confusion of growing up. For all of us, but especially for those coming of age during a time when one's parents are bewildered by rapid change. And, not lost is the insight into one Vietnam Vet's PTSD and slide into alcoholism. And, above all of that, is the insight into the love within a family, even one in which members don't always see eye to eye. Thank you, Tim, for sharing this beautiful story.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dana Gynther

    I imagine the author, Tim Parrish, hadn't told many people this story before he decided to write a memoir. This is a highly introspective account of growing up in a working-class neighborhood in Baton Rouge, LA, focusing on events from ages 13 to 17. How, having been bullied by low-life hoods (capable of pulling knives) in Jr Hi led him to befriend a local bad-ass, known for violence and racist views. Throw in the complications of health-issues (both the author's and his mother's), the hypocrisy I imagine the author, Tim Parrish, hadn't told many people this story before he decided to write a memoir. This is a highly introspective account of growing up in a working-class neighborhood in Baton Rouge, LA, focusing on events from ages 13 to 17. How, having been bullied by low-life hoods (capable of pulling knives) in Jr Hi led him to befriend a local bad-ass, known for violence and racist views. Throw in the complications of health-issues (both the author's and his mother's), the hypocrisy of racism and war-mongering at Church, and the constant worry of what it is to be a Man. The emotions behind this book are told with gut-wrenching honesty; the direct writing style allows the reader to feel the author's adrenaline rushes, his adolescent anguish. The characters' actions are woven through the social fabric of 1970s Louisana: integration, Vietnam, Nixon, etc. The context of his story was familiar to me. I moved to the Deep South at age 10 (but as the child of liberal academics) and am roughly Parrish's age (though, the five or six years he has on me would make a difference in Civil Rights-era context). I do remember how easily some people threw around the "n-word" and occasional moments of tension or misunderstanding. I think perhaps the most foreign element of his tale (and therefore, the most fascinating to me) was the desperation to prove one's manliness. One of the greatest fears in the book-- far beyond being bullied or stalked-- was to be judged a sissy. This book has made me wonder (and talk at length with my husband about his own upbringing in 1970s Spain and with my teenage daughters about "young people today") about just how far we have evolved since then. In terms of racism, machismo, the lot. I think this book would be a valuable tool to use in a classroom-- though the teacher would have to be both wily and brave. Highly recommended.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kendall

    Fear and What Follows, takes a chilling and at times difficult, even challenging look at America of the 1970’s, specifically the city of Baton Rouge and the school and neighborhood where Parrish grew up. It was the time of the Vietnam War and Watergate. Tim’s brother was a Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD before it even had a name. It was a time of integration of schools and neighborhoods, and of the white flight that resulted. And it was time of racial violence and unrest, in which young Tim is Fear and What Follows, takes a chilling and at times difficult, even challenging look at America of the 1970’s, specifically the city of Baton Rouge and the school and neighborhood where Parrish grew up. It was the time of the Vietnam War and Watergate. Tim’s brother was a Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD before it even had a name. It was a time of integration of schools and neighborhoods, and of the white flight that resulted. And it was time of racial violence and unrest, in which young Tim is willfully engulfed. The book is an attempt to understand the choices that were made and the forces that drove him to make those choices. Yet it is not an apologia where we end up feeling sorry for and defending the main character. Instead, I think we are asked to put ourselves in his place, but also in the places of the even tougher kids whose violence goes unchecked and the Black kids who are both victims and violent themselves. We are asked to understand and confront the causes of violence and racism in ourselves. I don’t think I have read a more brutally honest account that is so beautifully written. It has the credibility of lived truth, yet the narrative is as engaging as any thriller.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    Fear and What Follows is an honest and raw account of author Tim Parrish's teenage years battling racism and bullies in Louisiana. I had Tim as a professor in college and found this memoir especially touching because I've seen how much he has changed from the narrator of this book; I can't imagine the strength it took to make that transformation. Tim's writing is concise and compelling; the emotions are raw and very real. The characters are well-drawn: I feel as though I could recognize them in Fear and What Follows is an honest and raw account of author Tim Parrish's teenage years battling racism and bullies in Louisiana. I had Tim as a professor in college and found this memoir especially touching because I've seen how much he has changed from the narrator of this book; I can't imagine the strength it took to make that transformation. Tim's writing is concise and compelling; the emotions are raw and very real. The characters are well-drawn: I feel as though I could recognize them in real life. The racism presented in this memoir is particularly relevant even now with the recent police shootings (and accompanying race issues) that still affect our society today.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ciara

    As I get older I think about my parents, the things they did that were good and bad, the values they tried to instilled in me, and the early experiences that formed who I am as a person. Tim’s memoir is a harrowing account of his experience childhood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when integration, racial tensions, the Vietnam War, and religious fervor appeared to justify bigotry and violence. I was particularly drawn to how he describes this fear and how that led him to fall in with a dangerous gro As I get older I think about my parents, the things they did that were good and bad, the values they tried to instilled in me, and the early experiences that formed who I am as a person. Tim’s memoir is a harrowing account of his experience childhood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when integration, racial tensions, the Vietnam War, and religious fervor appeared to justify bigotry and violence. I was particularly drawn to how he describes this fear and how that led him to fall in with a dangerous group of people. I appreciated his careful observations of society, religion, and his family that revealed many contradictions (like the church preaching “love thy neighbor” but voting not to allow Black folks to attend) that didn’t make sense to a young adult finding his way in the world, so that he had to determine for himself who he wanted to be.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I have known Tim most of my life, growing up in the same neighborhood, attending the same schools and sharing many of the same friends. I recognize and know many of the people in the book. I also had Miss Monget and Mr. Shirley and their influence and guidance were very helpful to me in forming my own opinions and shaping me into the adult that I would become. I remember the public events mentioned in this book, but even though I had many classes with Tim and always thought of him as a smart and I have known Tim most of my life, growing up in the same neighborhood, attending the same schools and sharing many of the same friends. I recognize and know many of the people in the book. I also had Miss Monget and Mr. Shirley and their influence and guidance were very helpful to me in forming my own opinions and shaping me into the adult that I would become. I remember the public events mentioned in this book, but even though I had many classes with Tim and always thought of him as a smart and funny guy, I was totally unaware of his internal struggles with fear and racism. Growing up in the 60s and early 70s in North Baton Rouge in a primarily blue-collar white neighborhood, racism just was. It was what your parents, your parent's friends, your friends...everyone believed and openly expressed, sometimes with anger or hate but more often in a light matter of fact tone as if to say "of course this is the way it is and the way it should be". With desegregation, all of this would change and many would find our beliefs, our truths tested. The first part of the book is not just Tim's story, but is also his brother Robert's story, sometimes funny, often sad and honestly painful (not to read...but to imagine.) A young man sent into the middle of an unpopular war filled with violence and horror and how it changes him and never quite lets him go. It is also a story of bullying with Tim narrowly escaping a very serious run in with one of the hoods in the area. I remember the area where this fight took place. My friends and I never took that shortcut because of the "bad" kids who hung out at that store. We always thought it well worth the extra time to avoid being teased and picked on. It is also about religion and the teachings of his church and the disconnect with what he actually saw. The second part deals directly with the tension and racism that existed during his high school years and the inner struggles Tim had with faith, fear, anger and hatred and how they played out in his actions, friendships and decisions during that time. Well written and rich in dialog, which transported me back to that time and made me feel like a fly on the wall eavesdropping in on and witnessing a friend's journey through a very difficult time. Glad you made it through those tough times, my friend. Racism is not dead and this book might be the perfect opportunity to restart the discussion in an open and honest manner and see if we can't get even further down that road.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Corinne Blackmer

    Tim Parrish is a colleague of mine at the English Department at Southern Connecticut State University, and I have always admired his commitment to our students, his writing, and his establishment, along with Robin Troy, of our creative writing (MFA) program. This memoir takes place in the early 1970s--for Parrish between the ages of 13-18 (or the bridge between junior to high school). At that time, Louisiana was undergoing the agonies of racial integration in a culture that had been and was not o Tim Parrish is a colleague of mine at the English Department at Southern Connecticut State University, and I have always admired his commitment to our students, his writing, and his establishment, along with Robin Troy, of our creative writing (MFA) program. This memoir takes place in the early 1970s--for Parrish between the ages of 13-18 (or the bridge between junior to high school). At that time, Louisiana was undergoing the agonies of racial integration in a culture that had been and was not only reflexively racist, but also saturated in stereotypes of masculinity, violence, and homophobia (although homo-hatred would be more accurate). The narrator is pursued by two frightful bullies from (it seems) dysfunctional families, and then decides, in part for self-protection, to obtain the protection of another bully who he admires at first, and who loves violence and hates black people in equal measure. The narrator's adolescent self is in a perpetual fight to maintain his right to call himself a man, and his most prevalent emotional experiences are the rage, humiliation, and fear because of this intimidation and the racist violence to which it leads. This is a candid book, written in a clear reportage style, with much dialogue to illuminate the characters' minds--if not their inner lives.

  8. 5 out of 5

    David Melbie

    Every one of my contemporaries, myself included, should be able to write a memoir as good as this one. I am jealous! I wonder just how many of us have been able to shake off our learned prejudices over the years. Even in my own childhood things unspoken seem to have a way of coming back to haunt me, reminding me of a time long ago when fear ruled. Wait. That time is upon us again, is it not?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    Tim Parrish's memoir is a moving account of growing up in a racist, violent household and climate. The writing is so honest it is raw and, despite the difficult and often disturbing subject matter, the book becomes impossible to put down. Parrish's willingness to delve into the pain and fear of his past yields a most courageous and important work. Tim Parrish's memoir is a moving account of growing up in a racist, violent household and climate. The writing is so honest it is raw and, despite the difficult and often disturbing subject matter, the book becomes impossible to put down. Parrish's willingness to delve into the pain and fear of his past yields a most courageous and important work.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Olson

    I was fascinated and compelled to keep reading up to a point. Then it got to be more and more of the same, as far as I was concerned. I would like to go to an author talk (I missed one) and ask questions.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Allegra

    I found it hard to connect w/ this book, but I think it did a good job of painting the picture of this man's life as a teen. I found it hard to connect w/ this book, but I think it did a good job of painting the picture of this man's life as a teen.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Walker

    Excellent Book was interesting and how I felt like it was so long ago and still how some things in the book hadn't changed Excellent Book was interesting and how I felt like it was so long ago and still how some things in the book hadn't changed

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tyler

    Couldn't finish this, only 40 pages left. It drags and is so repetitive. He saw some fights in high school. That's about all that happens. Couldn't finish this, only 40 pages left. It drags and is so repetitive. He saw some fights in high school. That's about all that happens.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Meyer

  15. 5 out of 5

    Letty

  16. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amy Ashton

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bessie Hagen

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dale Foushee

  20. 5 out of 5

    Christine

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Gardner

  22. 4 out of 5

    Wayne Harrison

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alyson

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jason

  25. 5 out of 5

    Valeda

  26. 4 out of 5

    Juliana Gray

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christine

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea Dodds

  29. 4 out of 5

    Erin Southerland

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joe Mccarthy

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