Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Jerald Walker  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Non-Fiction

Audience: Adult;

Born: 1964 in Chicago, Il

-- Jerald Walker on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Walker grew up on the south side of Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Jerald Walker is with the Department of Writing, Literature and Publishing at Emmerson College. He attended the Iowa Writers' Workship, where he was a teaching/writing fellow and James A. Michener Fellows. His work has appeared in ''Mother Jones'' and the anthology ''Brothers: 26 Stories of Love and Rivalry''. His book, ''Street Shadows: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Redemption'' is a moving story where Walker reveals his own struggles growing up in Chicago housing projects. He talks about being a boy of great promise, his descent into the "thug life" and the wakeup call that led to him finding himself again. It is an eloquent account of how the past shadows but need not determine the present. Walker currently resides in Massachusetts.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Street Shadows: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Redemption
ISBN: 0553807552

Bantam Books. 2010

Masterfully told, marked by irony and humor as well as outrage and a barely contained sadness, Jerald Walker’s Street Shadows is the story of a young man’s descent into the “thug life” and the wake-up call that led to his finding himself again.

Walker was born in a Chicago housing project and raised, along with his six brothers and sisters, by blind parents of modest means but middle-class aspirations. A boy of great promise whose parents and teachers saw success in his future, he seemed destined to fulfill their hopes. But by age fourteen, like so many of his friends, he found himself drawn to the streets. By age seventeen he was a school dropout, a drug addict, and a gangbanger, his life spiraling toward the violent and premature end all too familiar to African American males.

And then came the blast of gunfire that changed everything: His coke-dealing friend Greg was shot to death—less than an hour after Walker scored a gram from him. “Twenty-five years later, tossing the drug out the window is still the second most difficult thing I’ve ever done. The most difficult thing is still that I didn’t follow it.”

So begins the story, told in alternating time frames, of the journey that Walker took to become the man he is today—a husband, father, teacher, and writer. But his struggle to escape the long shadows of the streets was not easy. There were racial stereotypes to overcome—his own as well as those of the very white world he found himself in—and a hard grappling with the meaning of race that came to an unexpected climax on a trip to Africa.

An eloquent account of how the past shadows but need not determine the present, Street Shadows is the opposite of a victim narrative. Walker casts no blame (except upon himself), sheds no tears (except for those who have not shared his good fortune), and refuses the temptations of self-pity and self-exoneration. In the end, what Jerald Walker has written is a stirring portrait of two Americas—one hopeless, the other inspirational—embodied within one man.

Speaking Engagements

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