‘Living’ is for the curious

Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 9:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 9:27 p.m.

Throughout your life, you’ve dodged a lot of bullets.


“Living and Dying in Brick City ” by Sampson Davis (with Lisa Frazier Page), c. 2013, Spiegel & Grau, $25, 245 pages.

By accident or design, you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but somehow you remained unscathed: the almost-hazard while driving, the near-miss at work, the moment you caught yourself just in time from falling.

Things could’ve been worse — much worse — but you dodged a bullet. So, did it make your heart pound or did it change your life? For author Sampson Davis, it was the latter because, as you will see in his new memoir, “Living and Dying in Brick City” (with Lisa Frazier Page), the bullets were sometimes real.

Sampson Davis hid his intelligence from his friends.

He was an “A” student and had, in fact, landed a college scholarship and was on his way to becoming a doctor. But since it wasn’t cool to be intelligent, he hid his smarts until he did something dumb: at age 17, he gave in to the streets, participated in a robbery, and was caught.

Time and again, Davis discovered to his dismay that he knew the people who lay on the tables in front of him; gunshot victims, domestic violence survivors, addicts, smokers, the sexually active, and the mentally ill.

No doubt about it, “Living and Dying in Brick City” is one of those books you want to read slowly, not because it’s difficult to understand but because it’s difficult to accept that it will end.

But long before that happens, readers are treated to a heart-racing memoir filled with guns, blood, violence and life’s unfairness. Rising above all that, though, is author Sampson Davis’ amazingly powerful sense of gratitude: he fully realized that he could very well have been a man on a gurney, rather than the man caring for the man on the gurney.

But that’s not all.

At the end of many chapters, Davis offers brief, helpful information and stats on STDs, heart attacks, AIDS, domestic violence and other issues of particular interest to African Americans and inner-city residents. This information and the accompanying stories pretty much glued me to my chair.

As memoirs go, this one’s a stunner, and if you’re a medical professional, fan of medi-dramas, or if you just want a fast-paced book to read, don’t miss it.

Grab “Living and Dying in Brick City” and fire away.

Terri Schlichenmeyer never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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