When Jerry McGill was growing up in the housing projects on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 1980s, his future seemed bright: Though times were tough for a family led by a single mother, McGill was a charming, precocious teenager, already excelling as an athlete and a dancer. But everything changed one night when he was thirteen. Walking home from a New Year’s party with a friend, McGill was shot in the back by an unknown assailant, who was never caught. Soon after, he learned that he would be wheelchair-bound for life.
Written as a letter to the man who shot him, whom he decides to call Marcus, Dear Marcus is a reflection on McGill’s childhood, the event that changed his life in an instant, the challenges of living with a disability, and the importance of optimism, forgiveness, and making the most of our gifts. In this direct and intimate attempt to explain to his attacker the repercussions of his deeds—how one man’s random decision radically altered the course of another’s life—McGill takes us to the streets of New York City in the 1980s, to the hospital where he spent six months recovering, and on his journey to make the most of his new life. He recounts the joys he has experienced traveling the globe and mentoring disabled children, the love and support he has received over the years, and the strengths he has been able to find within himself that he may never have discovered had his life turned out differently.
By turns brutally honest and funny, both full of rage and full of heart, Dear Marcus is an inspiring book about the moments in life that shape us—the ones that catch us by surprise, that blindside us, but that present us with opportunities for growth, reflection, compassion, and forgiveness. At some point—to greater or lesser degrees—we will all be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The challenge, though, as Dear Marcus shows us, is not to wallow in despair or blame other people, but to rise up and find strengths within ourselves that we didn’t know we had.
About the Author
Jerry McGill is a writer and artist. He received a BA in English literature from Fordham University in the Bronx and a master's degree in education from Pacific University in Oregon. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
“Inspiring.” —Lorrie Moore, The New York Review of Books
“As I started reading Dear Marcus, I found I couldn’t put it down. This is a compelling marriage of remembrance and forgiveness, absolution and compassion, cynicism and understanding.” —Wes Moore, author of The Other Wes Moore
“Written with passion, honesty, humor, and a stubborn, rebellious optimism, Dear Marcus is like nothing I’ve ever read. When a bullet in the back told Jerry McGill not to go on, Jerry went on—smiling.” —Shalom Auslander, author of Hope: A Tragedy
“It’s hard to remember how out of control our cities were back in the 1970s and ’80s. If you want a firsthand account, there’s no better place to turn to than Dear Marcus. But Dear Marcus is more than that: It’s an incredibly intense story of triumph over tragedy that can inspire people dealing with any sort of challenge in their lives. It’s rare to find a book that speaks to you on the most personal level while illustrating much bigger themes, and is so compelling to read to boot.” —Dalton Conley, dean of social sciences at New York University and author of Honky
“A moment of senseless violence transforms a young man in this inspiring memoir of disability. In 1982, McGill was 13 years old and living in a Manhattan housing project when he was randomly shot in the back by an assailant who was never found (he dubs the unknown gunman ‘Marcus’). The wound left him a near quadriplegic, and the once athletic boy faced an agonizing struggle to recover some bodily function, and adjust to losing most. McGill takes an unsparing though humorously insightful look at the frustrations and humiliations imposed by his handicap and at the permanent rifts his family suffered from the strain….McGill moves from bitter contempt for his attacker to a deeper analysis of the ghetto culture of violence, fatherlessness, and misguided machismo that victimized him—and eventually to understanding and forgiveness." —Publishers Weekly
“An inspirational memoir by a writer who refuses to be defined by his paralysis, as he comes to terms with the unknown man who shot him.” —Kirkus Reviews
"A powerful book." —The Oregonian
“An unforgettable and intriguing journey . . . Violence, hope, despair, forgiveness, anger, and living with a disability are explored both lightly and deeply, humorously and profoundly, and always honestly.” —Library Journal (starred review)
"Thoughtful and profound...written in gritty and brave language...McGill presents the pivotal moments of his life with the clarity of a cinematographer's lens." —Shelf Awareness
“Dear Marcus is my current favorite book….This is a literary page-turner that explores the reverberations of an action and a moment, the ways in which perpetrators and victims are connected…From the packaging, to the insights, to the defiance and challenge of assumptions, to the writing, this is a straight up gorgeous book.” –The Rumpus