“Living and Dying in Brick City” by Sampson Davis (with Lisa Frazier Page)
c.2013, Spiegel & Grau
$25.00 / $29.95 Canada
by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER
Throughout your life, you’ve dodged a lot of bullets.
By accident or design, you were in the wrong place at the wrong time but somehow remained unscathed: the almost-hazard while driving, the near-miss at work, the moment you caught yourself just in time from falling.
Things could’ve been worse – much worse – but you dodged a bullet. So did it make your heart pound, or did it change your life? For author Sampson Davis, it was the latter because, as you’ll see in his new memoir “Living and Dying in Brick City” (with Lisa Frazier Page), the bullets were sometimes real.
Sampson Davis hid his intelligence from his friends.
He was an A-student and had, in fact, landed a college scholarship and was on his way to becoming a doctor. But since it wasn’t cool to be intelligent, he hid his smarts until he did something dumb: at age seventeen-and-a-half, he gave in to the streets, participated in a robbery, and was caught.
Because he was a juvenile with no prior record, he got off easy with scholarship intact but it was a sobering wake-up call. Grateful for a second chance, Davis buckled down and went to med school.
When given the chance to intern in the emergency department at Newark’s Beth Israel Hospital, Davis seized it. He wanted to do something good for his community and working at the hospital where he drew his first breath seemed extraordinarily right. He felt that he could empathize with the patients who were brought to “Beth,” and he was correct.
Too correct, as it turns out.
Time and again, Davis discovered to his dismay that he knew the people who lay on the tables in front of him; gunshot victims, domestic violence survivors, addicts, smokers, the sexually active, and the mentally ill.
He knew them – or he knew he might’ve been one of them, if not for a youthful near-miss and a bullet dodged.
No doubt about it, “Living and Dying in Brick City” is one of those books you want to read slowly, not because it’s difficult to understand but because it’s difficult to accept that it will end.
But long before that happens, readers are treated to a heart-racing memoir filled with guns, blood, violence, and life’s unfairness. Rising above all that, though, is author Sampson Davis’ amazingly powerful sense of gratitude: he fully realized that he could very well have been a man on a gurney, rather than the man caring for the man on the gurney.
But that’s not all.
At the end of many chapters, Davis offers brief, helpful information and stats on STDs, heart attacks, AIDS, domestic violence and other issues of particular interest to African Americans and inner-city residents. This information and the accompanying stories pretty much glued me to my chair.
As memoirs go, this one’s a stunner and if you’re a medical professional, fan of medi-dramas, or if you just want a fast-paced book to read, don’t miss it. Grab “Living and Dying in Brick City”… and fire away.
Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.