Reader's Guide for Run in the Fam'ly

 Resources for Individuals and Book Clubs

In the Flatlands of Oakland, over the Memorial Day weekend at the end of the Reagan-Bush, Sr. era, a father’s return from prison pushes his son toward a terrible, fateful choice.
    Jake Robertson, a young Black man snared in the welfare-to-work rut, struggles to make a better way for his family. Piecing together minimum-wage jobs and drawing illegally on public assistance simply to make ends meet, he yearns for the chance to pull his girlfriend and asthmatic son out of grinding poverty.
    The chance comes—perhaps—when Curtis, his father, returns to Oakland from Folsom State Prison, where Jake had helped put him seven years ago. Together with Laurence, a middle-aged sometime-recovering alcoholic, he lures Jake into a crime that he claims can save both his family and his dignity. They will rob George, boss of the Ready Man, a labor hall where they have all worked— and been exploited— before. As he did when Jake was a boy, Curtis tells his son that it’s better to steal like a man than work like a slave.
    The choice forces Jake to confront his own dark past: the family memories he’d rather forget, and the recurring, mysterious dream he just can’t shake. He fears becoming a criminal like his father if he accepts, fears staying mired in poverty—and losing his son—if he doesn’t. Ultimately, the choice he makes will offer both him and his father a shot at redemption, even reconciliation, a chance that neither of them is sure they want.

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