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Dark-Land: Memoir of a Secret Childhood

Dark-Land: Memoir of a Secret Childhood

Kevin Hart

Regular price $ 15.96 USD
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241-page paperback / 5.5" x 8.5" / ISBN 9781589881891
Publication Date: 6/11/2024 (now shipping)

"A granular, meditative, and beautiful portrait of a fascinating life."
—Booklist

"Put this beautiful book on your shelf between Frank Conroy's Stop-Time and Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life."
—William Giraldi, author of The Hero's Body

This powerful memoir from poet Kevin Hart traces his difficult childhood as a "backward boy" in a poor part of London, a disorienting move to tropical Australia, and the secrets he and his family kept from one another.

Dark-Land: Memoir of a Secret Childhood is Kevin Hart’s searing, yet at times hilarious, narrative of his first thirteen years. It is a story of survival and transformation, of deception and recovery, and it passes from a frightening childhood in the East-End of London to a new and bewildering life in sub-tropical Australia. Throughout, Hart draws on John Bunyan’s evocation of “Dark-Land” in Pilgrim’s Progress, the place Valiant-for-Truth leaves in order to seek the Celestial City. But Dark-Land is no allegory. We see Hart’s hidden inner life, his family’s penchant for keeping secrets, and their illusions about the nature of their shared past. We see Hart grow from being the despair of his teachers in a rough primary school to experiencing a “conversion” in a math class in Brisbane, Australia, which turned him into a Christian, a poet, and an academic.

Written in elegant, lucid prose, without a trace of sentimentality, Dark-Land is a memoir of a working-class childhood, a narrative of a migrant, and the story of a convert to Christianity.

“Hart explores a world in which he is emotionally adrift, struggling for recognition, and part of a family concentrating above all on staying afloat. At its best when Hart describes the colorful cast of characters that populated his childhood, this is a granular, meditative, and beautiful portrait of a fascinating life.”
—Booklist

"An athletics test, high school, suddenly enjoyable algebra, ticks, fruit bats, religion, poetry, family secrets—Hart is excellent at capturing his misty inner life and his many experiences and adventures adapting to a new environment . . . in this poignant memoir.”
—Kirkus Reviews

"In Dark-Land, Kevin Hart has crafted a personal narrative of searing beauty, a portrait of an extinct place and time and one boy's roiling development within it. This is not only a poet's Proustian grasping after memory, but a melodic assertion of selfhood and how that selfhood is forged within the contradictions of family and the pronouncements of faith. Put this beautiful book on your shelf between Frank Conroy's Stop-Time and Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life.”
—William Giraldi, author of The Hero's Body

"This is a profoundly meditative book, philosophical in its sweep and magnificent in its phrasing, which encompasses rape and religion, Jewishness and Catholicism, and the darkness of those places where we grope for what truth the self may fumble towards.”
Peter Craven, Australian cultural critic

“The memories that make their way into words here, emerging with startling clarity from the fog of forgetting, trace a highly unusual life journey from childhood into adolescence and beyond, and from working-class post-War London to steamy Brisbane in the sizzling ‘60s and ultimately to the USA. More than a memoir, Hart’s Dark-Land is also a sustained meditation on the enduring mysteries of mind and a compelling evocation of particular social milieux during a time of escalating if patchy geohistorical change. Lyrical, brooding, and at times hilariously funny, this is an utterly riveting read.”
—Kate Rigby, Alexander von Humboldt Professor of Environmental Humanities, University of Cologne, author of Meditations on Creation in an Era of Extinction

“Luminously detailed and lovingly told, Dark-Land is a memoir I will not soon forget. From the ‘divided life’ of his working-class childhood in London’s East End to his family’s immigration to sweltering Queensland, Kevin Hart tells of a boy who sees everything through a fog of unknowing, until a series of epiphanies opens the world to him. A major philosopher and theologian, Hart is also one of the finest poets now at work in English. In this remarkable coming-of-age, he writes, ‘Childhood ends, and then it ends again, and then it ends yet again.’ But as the story proves, it never does.”
—David Mason, author of Incarnation and Metamorphosis: Can Literature Change Us?


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Kevin Hart is the author of eleven poetry collections including Wild Track: New and Selected Poems and Barefoot. His most recent books are Lands of Likeness: For a Poetics of Contemplation, which represents his Gifford Lectures for 2019-2023, and Contemplation: The Movements of the Soul. He is the Jo Rae Wright University Professor in the School of Divinity, at Duke University, and lives with his wife and son in Durham, NC.

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