How Far to the Promised Land: One Black Family's Story of Hope and Survival in the American South (Hardcover)

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How Far to the Promised Land: One Black Family's Story of Hope and Survival in the American South By Esau McCaulley Cover Image
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From the New York Times contributing opinion writer and award-winning author of Reading While Black, a riveting intergenerational account of his family’s search for meaning and a place to call home in the American South
For much of his life, Esau McCaulley was taught to see himself as an exception: someone who, through hard work, faith, and determination, overcame childhood poverty, anti-Black racism, and an absent father to earn a job as a university professor and a life in the middle class. This account was the one he was conditioned to give, the story America demands from Black survivors. When preparing the eulogy at his estranged father’s funeral, McCaulley was forced to reexamine and face the shortcomings of that narrative about his own path to prosperity. No one “escapes” poverty; it leaves a mark. He came to see that people, even those who harm us, are more complicated than the roles we create for them in our imagination. The way to the promised land is not a trip from poverty to success but the journey to finding beauty even in dark places.
McCaulley chronicles his lifelong effort to understand the community that shaped him and the struggle it endured to make a home for its loved ones. We meet his great-grandmother Sophia, a tenant farmer born with the gift of prophecy who scraped together a life in Jim Crow Alabama; his mother, Laurie, who survived a brain tumor and raised four kids alone in rough-and-tumble Northwest Huntsville; and a cast of family, friends, and neighbors who won small victories in a world built to swallow up Black lives.
Along the way, McCaulley raises questions that implicate us all: What does each person’s struggle to build a life, regardless of its outcome, teach us about what it means to be human? Where might God be found in the trauma and miracle that is Black life in the American South? Written with profound honesty and compassion, How Far to the Promised Land is a weighty examination of our most pressing societal issues and the hope that keeps us alive.

About the Author

Esau McCaulley is associate professor of New Testament at Wheaton College and theologian in residence at Progressive Baptist Church, a historically Black congregation in Chicago. He is the author of the award-winning book Reading While Black and the children’s book Josey Johnson’s Hair and the Holy Spirit. He is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times. His writings have also appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and Christianity Today.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780593241080
ISBN-10: 0593241088
Publisher: Convergent Books
Publication Date: September 12th, 2023
Pages: 240
Language: English