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Publisher's Summary

An award-winning writer traces the life of the father of iconic Civil Rights martyr Emmett Till - a man who was executed by the army 10 years before Emmett's murder. An evocative and personal exploration of individual and collective memory in America by one of the most formidable black intellectuals of our time.

In 1955 Emmett Till, age 14, traveled from his home in Chicago to visit family in Mississippi. Several weeks later he returned dead; allegedly he had whistled at a white woman. His mother, Mamie, wanted the world to see what had been done to her son. She chose to leave his casket open. Images of her brutalized boy were published widely. While Emmett's story is known, there's a dark sidenote that's rarely mentioned. Ten years earlier Emmett's father had been executed by the army for rape and murder.

In Writing to Save a Life, John Edgar Wideman searches for Louis Till, a silent victim of American injustice. Wideman's personal interaction with the story began when he learned of Emmett's murder in 1955; Wideman was also 14 years old. After reading decades later about Louis' execution, he couldn't escape the twin tragedies of father and son, and tells their stories together for the first time. Author of the award-winning Brothers and Keepers, Wideman brings extraordinary insight and a haunting intimacy to this devastating story.

An amalgam of research, memoir, and imagination, Writing to Save a Life is completely original in its delivery - an engaging and enlightening conversation between generations, the living and the dead, fathers and sons. Wideman turns 75 this year, and he brings the force of his substantial intellect and experience to this beautiful, stirring book, his first nonfiction in 15 years.

©2016 John Edgar Wideman (P)2016 Simon & Schuster Audio

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