Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File
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Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File


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 ten 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, aged fourteen, traveled from his home in Chicago to visit family in Mississippi. Several weeks later he returned, dead; allegedly he 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 side note that’s rarely mentioned. Ten years earlier, Emmett’s father was 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 fourteen years old. After reading decades later about Louis’s 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 seventy-five this year, and he brings the force of his substantial intellect and experience to this beautiful, stirring book, his first nonfiction in fifteen years.

Title:Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Kindle Edition
Number of Pages:224 pages

    Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File Reviews

  • Michelle
    Jan 02, 2017

    Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File authored by acclaimed award winning author John Edgar Wideman is a powerful and necessary tribute to the largely overlooked historical Emmett Till case. In ...

  • BlackOxford
    Jan 27, 2017

    I just ordered this book today. Read here for reasons to get it:http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/0......

  • Rebecca
    Dec 31, 2016

    *2.5 starsPart memoir, part stream of consciousness, part historical this book was kind of a mess. I had some high hopes for this book, but I was a bit let down!Wideman shuffles back and forth between...

  • Beverly
    Dec 13, 2016

    thoughts coming shortly...

  • Jim
    Dec 07, 2016

    I saw John Edgar Wideman at the Chicago Humanities Festival, and immediately began reading his book, a meditation on Emmett Till and his father Louis Till and mother Mamie, as well as Wideman's own fa...

  • Casey
    Feb 26, 2017

    This book is beyond recap, beyond review. It's personal and unwieldy, beautiful sentences and heartbreaking realizations. It's also totally weird. I love it best when Wideman zeros down on himself....

  • Bryan R.
    Jan 12, 2017

    Again Wideman can't help himself. We know he can write pretty. We know that. But he sometimes overdoes it a bit. Do we need so much of his personal anecdotes in order to connect the dots of Louis and ...

  • Michelle Despres
    Feb 01, 2017

    I just couldn't handle the narrator whispering most of the book. Gave up. May read the print book instead of listening to audio....

  • Joan
    Nov 28, 2016

    John Edgar Wideman researches the story of Louis Till, and draws comparisons to his own life and current situations. A necessary perspective....

  • Rick
    Mar 05, 2017

    In this scalding, measured book on race and justice in America, Wideman considers the case of Louis Till, Emmet Till’s father, who was a solider during the Second World War executed by the army in I...

About John Edgar Wideman

John Edgar Wideman

A widely-celebrated writer and the winner of many literary awards, he is the first to win the International PEN/Faulkner Award twice: in 1984 for Sent for You Yesterday and in 1990 for Philadelphia Fire. In 2000 he won the O. Henry Award for his short story "Weight", published in The Callaloo Journal.In March, 2010, he self-published "Briefs," a new collection of microstories, on Lulu.com. Stories