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NPR's Books We Love 2023
Equal parts investigative and deeply introspective, The Wreck is a profound memoir about recognizing the echoes of history within ourselves, and the alchemy of turning inherited grief into renewal.
There is a secret that young Cassandra Jackson doesn’t know, and it’s evident in the way her father cries her name out in his sleep. Through awkward encounters with family, she comes to realize that she is named after her father's niece, and looks eerily like the child’s mother, both of whom were killed in a car wreck along with her father's beloved mother, and—as she soon discovers—his first wife. Cassandra learns to keep silent about the wreck, but soon learns there is no way to outpace the claw-like grip of her family’s past trauma.
In this luminous memoir, Jackson attempts to unearth her lost family, while also creating a new one--only to discover little progress separates the past from the present. As she moves back and forth between her girlhood and her journey to motherhood, Jackson reveals the chilling parallels between the harrowing inhumanity of Jim Crow medical care and the toxic discrimination that undergirds healthcare in the United States today. But as she traces the cascading effects of loss punctuated by racism, she also discovers a powerful legacy of fearless love and furious perseverance that she hopes to extend to a new generation.
Lyrical, urgent, and wise, this is an unforgettable story of reclaiming the past to reclaim ourselves.
About the Author
Cassandra Jackson is a professor of English at the College of New Jersey, where she teaches classes about African American literature and visual culture. She is a co-author of The Toni Morrison Book Club (2020), and has also published two books on race in U.S. literature and art, and she has written about racial oppression in everyday life in HuffPost and The Washington Post. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children.
NPR's Books We Love 2023
Praise for The Wreck
"An account at once individual and universal. . . For anyone considering IVF, [Jackson's] account is invaluable; but more than that, it explores the particular experience faced by black women." —Harper's Magazine
"At the heart of Cassandra Jackson’s memoir The Wreck is a quest to understand long-buried secrets from her family’s past. Spurred by her own journey to become a parent, Jackson investigates the circumstances of a devastating car crash that took the lives of her father’s mother, sister, niece, and first wife. Learning more about the incident leads to Jackson unearthing uncomfortable truths, not only about her family’s trauma, but also about the racism that exacerbated it—and the systemic inequality that still undermines her life." —TIME "[An] anguished, affecting memoir. . . Jackson deftly intertwines the story of her search for the truth about 'the wreck' with her infertility struggle. . . Jackson had feared her search for answers might cause her wounded father pain; in the end, it shines a healing light." —The New York Times Book Review
"The Wreck is not only a story about the long shadow of family secrets, but also a fearless, original interrogation of society’s treatment of the female body and the legacy of racism in America. It is also a story of resilience and — ultimately, renewal." —The Washington Post
"With mesmerizing lyricism and cutting insight, the author of The Toni Morrison Book Club teaches us that any hope for the future requires an honest confrontation with the past." —Oprah Daily
"A powerful story of her journey through infertility treatment to becoming a mother." —The Root
"Cassandra Jackson exposes how the medical field has failed Black Americans, revealing her own harrowing journey of infertility treatments and revisiting the horrific car crash that took the lives of several family members in the 1960s." —Ebony
"As Cassandra copes with the ever-presence of her lost family and her father’s loss, she explores racism, the past, and the journey to reclaiming a sense of self." —Zibby Owens, Katie Couric Media
"A perceptive memoir about race, love, and legacy." —Kirkus Reviews
"Jackson’s is an uneasy journey, finely balanced between hope and dread. She leaves readers with the knowledge that the past is just as infinite as the future—and that grief and healing alike never truly end." —Booklist