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August 22, 2013

Book Notes - Mitchell S. Jackson "The Residue Years"

The Residue Years

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Mitchell S. Williams' novel The Residue Years is one of the year's most powerful debuts, affectingly told in alternating chapters by a single mother and her oldest son.

In the New York Times, Roxane Gay wrote of the book:

"There is warmth and wit, and a hard-won wisdom about the intersection of race and poverty in America."

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, sign up for the free service.


In his own words, here is Mitchell S. Jackson's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel, The Residue Years:


If you happen to hear or read any word on The Residue Years there's a good bet it alludes to the fact that it's autobiographical. How much autobiography, you say? Well, if I had to ballpark, I'd say somewhere between semi and much. That being said, in terms of a soundtrack for the novel, the songs on my playlist are not so much the music I listened to while I wrote it (I cannot for the life of me write anything worth reading while listening to anything with lyrics) but the cuts (that's what I called my favorite songs back then) I listened to while I was unbeknownst conducting research. In those days, music was great influence over me, over my peoples; shoot, it was damn near a hegemony. In those bygone days, I spent a beaucoup time in my car playing cuts on my after-market stereo at levels that could burst an ear.


1. "Dear Mama" 2Pac

There are those who are Tupac disciples but guess what: I, however, am not one of them. But I used to bump Pac. The Residue Years is about a lot of things, but at its heart it's about the relationship between a mother and a son, my mother and I, Champ and Grace. This song has always represented that primary bond.


2. "All I Ask" Tony, Toni, Tone

This is the song, because I listened to so much while I drove, that reminds me of my 1986 Honda Accord. I got in a car accident and when I got the damaged fixed, I got one of those $99 paint jobs (electric blue) and bought five star rims. Here's something else: my old electric blue Honda with the five stars also happened to be the car I was driving when I was arrested.


3. "Straight Up Menace" MC Eiht

I had a friend who loved this song so much that he recorded (yeah, I'm talking a cassette tape) the song on both sides of a tape and played nothing but that song the whole summer. Every time you rode with him, that's ALL you heard. Not only was the song memorable for that reason, but also because the movie Menace II Society is one of my all time favorites. If I had to describe Portland in the 1990's, I'd say it felt very much like what was happening in the film and described in the song.


4. "Computer Love" Zapp and Roger

There was a scene in the Menace II Society where Caine jacks this guy for his Mustang and then the next moment he's cruising up to a park barbecue in the mustang with the spoke rims. If I remember right, they show it in slow motion. There were a few guys who were ahead of me in the hustling hierarchy who actually had candy painted Mustangs with Daytona and Roadster spoke rims, and they would ride down MLK shining on us all. No lie, there were plenty of us who coveted that shine.


5. "Birds in the Kitchen" C-Bo

This song was popular when I was getting started hustling. My friend used to rent an apartment that was in the heart of what we called "Crack Alley" and he would play it loud on stereo while we all sat around slapping dominoes and drinking malt liquor and cheap wine. When I hear it now, it also puts me in the mind of those early nights, of being out on a corner praying someone would buy from me and not the guy standing a few feet away.


6. "I Belong to You," Rome

I wasn't supposed to go to prison. My lawyer was telling me I'd get probation because I didn't have any priors. Then one day he called and gave me the news that I would have to do some time. I went into my room and turned on Rome's mid temp song and cried. I must've stayed in my room for hours listening to the song over and over and boohooing.


7. "Axel F," Harold Faltermeyer

I used to love Eddie Murphy. This was one of the few things that I could play on the piano. There is a scene in the novel where Champ sees a piano in his old house. On that real life piano I would play this song over and over again.


8. "Cool it Now" New Edition
This song reminds me of a time before my mother was on drugs, of the days when I lived in the real house on 6th street. I was in elementary school and would sing this song on the playgrounds with my friends. If ever I enjoyed halcyon days, or should I say Champ, my Cool-It-Now days were them.


9."Bitches Ain't Shit" Dr. Dre feat Daz, Snoop, Dogg & Kurupt

Truth: the grown me is ashamed of this song. This song, as evidenced by its title, is terrible! I am ashamed to say that I would listen to it before every one of my high school basketball games. If you asked me back then, I'd tell you it represented how I felt about women or should I say young women. And sadly, it did. The problem was, I didn't know why, but I had to be honest about its influence.


10."Can't Knock the Hustle" Jay-Z

If there is a song that most represents my years as a hustler, it's this record off Jay-Z's classic debut album. I can remember sitting in my house watching the video for the song for the first time. Jay-Z had a pearl white Lexus GS 300 in the video. His was the first I'd seen anywhere. Not too long later, I was at the Lexus dealer buying a money green Lexus GS 300 of own. I was twenty years old. Buying that car was one of my moments.


Mitchell S. Jackson and The Residue Years links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
The Skanner profile of the author

The Coffin Factory interview with the author
Portland Monthly profile of the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists


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