Our December pick for the PBS NewsHour-New York Times book club, “Now Read This,” is Casey Gerald’s “There Will Be No Miracles Here,” a memoir about attaining — and then questioning — the American dream. Become a member of the book club by joining our Facebook group, or by signing up to our newsletter. Learn more about the book club here.
“‘I don’t know’ is the most important phrase in this whole book,” says Casey Gerald. “We’ve all been lied to so tremendously, that I wanted to be straight up with you about what I do and don’t know. I don’t have any program or campaign to sell, just trying to figure it all out for myself.”
This is a good introduction to what readers will find in “There Will Be No Miracles Here,” which is no usual rags-to-riches memoir. Instead of celebrating success, many of the book’s pages are devoted to unpacking what he sees as the truths and lies of the American dream.
Below, Gerald annotates the first page of the book, which opens at the end of the world (or the supposed end of the world), and in which we are introduced to his unique writing style, often questioning and irreverent. From there, we follow Gerald from his difficult upbringing in a poor neighborhood in Dallas to the Yale football team and the halls of power, a journey that ends up only raising more questions. But Gerald said he was comfortable expressing that uncertainty.
“I found that it was a beautiful challenge to bring worthy language to uncertainty,” he says. “To build trust in the small, seeking I — rather than the omniscient, God.”
Page 1 from “There Will Be No Miracles Here”
I do not want the world to end.
Nobody asked me, though. Boy you’re too young to have an opinion! They cry and cry each time I offer up a couple cents. Maybe so. Maybe. But if twelve is too young to think, it sure as hell is too young to die.
I guess it won’t be death. I will simply disappear, in the twinkling of an eye, right around midnight on the last night of this world, 31 December 1999, when Jesus Christ returns to set His kingdom up for good and for good reason. Things have really gone to shit since He’s been gone. Ever since He got Himself killed for trying to help the weak and poor and scorned around Judea, and since He fled back home to lick His wounds, to spend two thousand years in exile, and since His buddies spread a story in His stead to men and women everywhere, some of whom were so inspired that they, too, wound up hung and shot and flayed for similar transgressions— and still, somehow, it seems each day, there are more poor, more weak, more scorned among the earth, myself included, which is why the Son of man is on His way to pick me up.
Just a minute!
Got to find my shoes somewhere in this house where all my space is borrowed, temporary. A little corner of somebody else’s closet. Their bed. Their bathroom sink. Their dinner table. A stranger in the country of my kin, but that’s all right. There are many mansions over there and plenty room for me. Here I come . . . out the door and down the sidewalk to the long and boxy town car where Clarice sits waiting. She will disappear as well. Must be why her head is bare, why those thick gray curls are washed and set but unadorned, ready for her crown reserved in layaway. Or does she wear no hat tonight simply because it’s Friday? I don’t know for sure. Don’t know anything for sure when it comes to her, my father’s mother, or when it comes to my own mother, wherever she is— or when it comes to anybody else who played some role in making this world what it has been for these twelve years. But that’s all right, too. He knows it all. We’re on our way.