The World in Flames: Book summary and reviews of The World in Flames by Jerald Walker

The World in Flames

A Black Boyhood in a White Supremacist Doomsday Cult

by Jerald Walker

The World in Flames by Jerald Walker
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2016
    208 pages
    Genre: Biographies/Memoirs

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Book Summary

A memoir of growing up with blind, African-American parents in a segregated cult preaching the imminent end of the world.

When The World in Flames begins, in 1970, Jerald Walker is six years old. His consciousness revolves around being a member of a church whose teachings he finds confusing and terrifying. Composed of a hodgepodge of religious beliefs, the underlying tenet of Herbert W. Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God was that members were God's chosen race and all others would perish in just a few years' time. The next life, according to Armstrong, would arrive in 1975, three years after the Great Tribulation. Walker would be eleven years old.

Walker's parents were particularly vulnerable to the promise of relief from this world's hardships. They were living in a two-room apartment in a dangerous Chicago housing project with their four children. Both were blind, having lost their sight to childhood accidents, and took comfort in the belief that they had been chosen for a better afterlife.

When the initial prophecy of the 1972 Great Tribulation does not materialize, Walker is considerably less disappointed than relieved. When the End-Time 1975 prophecy also fails, he finally begins to question his faith and to see a potential future for himself.

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Media Reviews

"Starred Review. The key to the memoir's cumulative power is Walker's narrative command; the rite of passage is rockier than most, making the redemption well-earned." - Kirkus

"Jerald Walker has a remarkable story to tell, and he tells it with a wealth of grace and intelligence at his command." - Vivian Gornick

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Jerald Walker is a professor of creative writing at Emerson College. His writing has appeared in publications such as the Harvard Review, Mother Jones, the Iowa Review; the Missouri Review; the Oxford American; the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Creative Nonfiction, as well as four times in Best American Essays. He is the author of Street Shadows: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Redemption, which won the PEN New England/L. L. Winship Award for Nonfiction.

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