In 2016, Lawrence Jackson accepted a new job in Baltimore, searched for schools for his sons, and bought a house. It would all be unremarkable but for the fact that he had grown up in West Baltimore and now found himself teaching at Johns Hopkins, whose vexed relationship to its neighborhood, to the city and its history, provides fodder for this memoir in essays.
To get from beginning to end of Lawrence Jackson's Shelter, you'll probably need the following: a detailed map of Baltimore's neighborhoods, especially the ones bordering the sprawling campus of Johns Hopkins University, a dictionary to look up the occasional obscure or archaic word, and a great deal of patience ... For a book with a meandering narrative, including lots of excursions by foot, boat or bus and whip-lashing digressions, a story line actually exists, thin yet compelling.
... penetrating ... by turns searing, informative and funny, as Jackson explores both serious issues and absurdities of his life and his city ... Jackson renders all of this, along with some nuanced and well-researched Baltimore and Maryland history, with a literary flair. The essays at times have an almost stream-of-consciousness feel.
Writing about bus drivers, the author showcases the brilliant embodiment of geography that will make this book come alive for non-Baltimoreans ... countless passages of sparkling prose ... An extraordinary dual portrait of the author and his hometown—angry, tender, incisive, and bracingly eloquent.