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Fear and What Follows - The Violent Education of a Christian Racist, A Memoir

Fear and What Follows

The Violent Education of a Christian Racist, A Memoir

By Tim Parrish
Series: Willie Morris Books in Memoir and Biography
Paperback : 9781628461930, 263 pages, July 2014
Hardcover : 9781617038662, 263 pages, August 2013

The story of a working-class, Southern Baptist upbringing that transformed into a nightmare of bigotry and bullying in Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Fear and What Follows is a riveting, unflinching account of the author's spiral into racist violence during the latter years of desegregation in 1960s and 1970s Baton Rouge. About the memoir, author and editor Michael Griffith writes, “This might be a controversial book, in the best way—controversial because it speaks to real and intractable problems and speaks to them with rare bluntness. ”

The narrative of Parrish's descent into fear and irrational behavior begins with bigotry and apocalyptic thinking in his Southern Baptist church. Living a life upon this volatile foundation of prejudice and apprehension, Parrish feels destabilized by his brother going to Vietnam, his own puberty and restlessness, serious family illness, and economic uncertainty. Then a near-fatal street fight and subsequent stalking by an older sociopath fracture what security is left, leaving him terrified and seemingly helpless.

Parrish comes to believe that he can only be safe by allying himself with brute force. This brute influence is a vicious, charismatic racist. Under this bigot's terrible sway, Parrish turns to violence in the street and at school. He is even conflicted about whether he will help commit murder in order to avenge a friend. At seventeen he must reckon with all of this as his parents and neighbors grow increasingly afraid that they are “losing” their neighborhood to African Americans. Fear and What Follows is an unparalleled story of the complex roots of southern, urban, working-class racism and white flight, as well as a story of family, love, and the possibility of redemption.


It is immensely readable and engaging, not least because, despite its narrative shapeliness, Parrish examines the contradictions of his young life, chief among them the fact that one of his best longtime friends was a black fellow athlete and top student. This is one of those books that, once read, is never forgotten.

- Ray Olson, ALA Booklist, starred review

Tim Parrish's Fear and What Follows is the bravest, funniest, smartest, most damning, and most revealing book I've read on race and place in years. If you thought that everything had been already said about race, integration, and the American South, well, Tim Parrish's new memoir will make you think again. An unforgettable book by a hugely talented writer.

- Brock Clarke, author of Exley and An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England

Tim Parrish's voice is an important one in the polyvocal chorus of southern letters. With insight and urgency Parrish proves that even a stubborn, inherited racism can be vanquished through will. At the same time, he tells the riveting story of a mostly overlooked time, class, and place--a location that's at once unique and every bit as American as the rest of this variegated country.

- Elise Blackwell, author of Hunger and The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish

Parrish evokes an era of tremendous social upheaval while investigating his own inner tumult. Due to Parrish's considerable talent, this is a beautiful, difficult book that resists easy categorization. To my knowledge, there is no book that competes with it.

- Audrey Petty, author of High-Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing