Vintage books recently released “Little Boy Blues,” written by Malcolm Jones. The book cover presents a picture of a little boy sitting on a chair, smoking a big pipe with a newspaper in hand while hiding his eyes behind large reading glasses. The picture is a statement itself: A boy in an adult world.
As soon as the book begins, the reader evokes those emotions that are far buried in our childhood years: fear of others and the need of acceptance. It doesn’t take too many pages for those emotions to surface again.
Malcolm Jones, a “Newsweek” staff writer and author, delivers through his clear, simple and direct writing a picture of a Southern family in the 1950s and 1960s. The picture is colored with racial segregation, prejudices, strong and judgmental religious beliefs, and lack of tolerance. A general portrait of a society struggling to adjust while going through a transition from the last century into the next.
Jones invites the reader to watch a show of marionettes in which the dolls – his mother, his father, his relatives and himself – are pulled by the strings of circumstances, society principles, and fate. The marionettes react naturally according to their wounded, hurt and weightless bodies.
His book welcomes the reader to a home that is pulled by strong forces in different directions. An alcoholic father that rules through his unpredictable behavior acting as a gravitational and problematic center. A wife who strives for control without realizing she is just a planet that revolves around that center. A conventional mother who ends up pushing away those she loves most by trying to follow the “shoulds” instead of dealing with reality. And a child, Malcolm, who does not know what his position is in that universe.
Jones explicitly portraits the inverted dynamics that go on in dysfunctional homes. A child is hosted by an “adult world” that is absolutely new, foreign, incomprehensible and overwhelming. The child is usually left to cope and survive in it. As a result, the child matures rapidly and ends up being an adult living in the body and circumstances of a child.
The author places the reader in the mind and heart of the child by using clear and vivid memories to illustrate his past. Jones’ writing is full of emotions: fear, anxiety, helplessness, and guilt. As he grows, he develops a radar that catches and interprets the feelings of those around him. He learns to display the most suitable behavior for the unexpected ” weather changes” at home.
Jones provides photos of the characters and maps that contribute to the reader’s imagination.
“Little Boy Blues” is highly sensitive and sensible, accurately descriptive, subtly funny, touching and revealing. The book is inspirational and therapeutic without intending to be.
The author’s analogies are strong and vivid. Reading him is finding the correct words to identify some of our childhood traumas and experiences that we box without a tag in the corner of our minds and are only retrieved by readings such as this.