Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir
by Kambri Crews

Villard, 2012. ISBN 978-0-345-51602-2.
Reviewed by Khadijah A.
Posted on 04/24/2012

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Life Lessons

Kambri Crews' father is intelligent, charismatic, and funny, a gifted carpenter who helps his young family make a home out of a tin shed in the middle of nowhere. He is also obsessively jealous, irresponsible, insecure, and violent. Burn Down the Ground is, in many ways, his story. It is also the story of his daughter, Kambri, and her one of a kind experience growing up as a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) in a family that can only be termed unique.

In a desperate attempt to save their marriage, Crews' parents move with their two children to a small plot of land in rural Texas, where they live for several months in a tin shed with no electricity or running water. After they move into a small trailer, Kambri and her brother have only three rules to live by:

  1. Don't leave the refrigerator door hanging wide open
  2. Don't drink straight out of the milk jug
  3. Don't tell anyone that Mom and Dad smoke marijuana

Crews tells the story of her childhood and coming of age in this unstructured environment. For the most part she relates it from her point of view as a child. It is only when she is an adult and is finally able to question her mother concerning what was going on behind the scenes during those years do we find out the story behind her childish perceptions. I found this to be totally compelling, as she brings the reader into her life with a sense of immediacy that gives her story the flavor of timelessness and truth.

Later on, she and her family move to an urban area where Crews takes on new responsibilities and begins to explore her own talents and strengths, just as her parents' marriage finally falls apart. Eventually, Crews grows into her own person, as she finally comes to terms with the reality of her father and his impact on her life.

Burn Down the Ground is intriguing on many levels. First, it is—simply put—a well told tale. Secondly, it offers a glimpse into the world of the deaf community from the unique perspective of a hearing person who was very much a part of that community. Thirdly, it explores the complex relationships between Crews and her mother, brother, and, especially, her father. And, lastly, it shows us the author's struggle to deal with the circumstances of her life in a way that leads to acceptance and understanding on many different levels.

Kambri Crews has a story to tell. I challenge you to resist the pull of this beautifully written memoir.

Read an excerpt from this book.

Kambri Crews once lived with her deaf parents in a tin shed in Montgomery, Texas. She now runs her own PR and production company in New York City, and is an author, renowned storyteller, and public speaker. She has performed on The Moth's Mainstage, The 92Y, SXSW Comedy, Risk!, UCB Theatre, Gotham Comedy Club, and given speeches at SXSW, DeafHope, and many other schools, colleges, venues and events. She lives with her husband, comedian Christian Finnegan, dividing her time between Astoria, Queens, and Cochecton, New York. Visit her website.

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