Nine Years Under (Paperback)

Coming of Age in an Inner-City Funeral Home

By Sheri Booker

Avery, 9781592407620, 272pp.

Publication Date: July 1, 2014

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (5/30/2013)

List Price: 17.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


A dazzling and darkly comic memoir about coming of age in a black funeral home in Baltimore 

Sheri Booker was only fifteen when she started working at Wylie Funeral Home in West Baltimore. She had no idea her summer job would become nine years of immersion into a hidden world. Reeling from the death of her beloved great aunt, Sheri found comfort in the funeral home and soon had the run of the place. With AIDS and gang violence threatening to wipe out a generation of black men, Wylie was never short on business. 
As families came together to bury one of their own, Booker was privy to their most intimate moments of grief and despair. But along with the sadness, Booker encountered moments of dark humor: brawls between mistresses and widows, and car crashes at McDonald’s with dead bodies in tow. While she never got over her terror of the embalming room, Booker learned to expect the unexpected and to never, ever cry. Nine Years Under offers readers an unbelievable glimpse into an industry in the backdrop of all our lives.

About the Author

Sheri Booker is a writer, poet, spoken-word artist, photographer, and teacher. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Goucher College, where she was runner-up for the program’s departmental award. She lives in Baltimore.

Praise For Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner-City Funeral Home

“Alternately creepy and captivating, drawing readers in with the same you-can't-not-look quality of a highway crash…. There will be some stiffs who just can't get past Booker's subject. Readers who do will find that her story is only partly about dead people. It's the living ones that make the book.”-- Associated Press

“A darkly comic memoir of life and death in urban America.” – Booklist Starred Review

Nine Years Under is a sparkling debut— brimming with love and bursting with life. Booker's Baltimore is equal parts The Wire and The Cosby show.  She doesn't shrink from the realities of life in inner city funeral home, but she is also a loving witness, documenting the big hearted community that takes care of its own. Told with compassion, wit, and good old fashioned story telling, Sheri Booker gives us unforgettable characters who will make you laugh right up until they break your heart.”
--Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow

“You’ve never read a book like Nine Years Under. I fell in love with Sheri, a plucky and nervy teenager who took a risk that changed her life. Through love, laughter, and tears, Sheri takes you to a world many of us will never experience.  And she does it with lively writing, awesome characters and a sharp sense of humor. Who knew the world of death was filled with so much life?”
--Aliya S King, author of Diamond Life

“In Nine Years Under, Sheri Booker has accomplished quite a feat. She somehow was able to bring a tremendous amount of light and life to a story about the strange and often dark business of death. For that, I applaud her.”
--Jason Reynolds, coauthor of My Name Is Jason: Mine Too

“In Nine Years Under, Booker poetically infiltrates the private world of black funeral home culture. The book serves as a magic intersection of this mysterious mortuary milieu, the black church and middle class black Baltimore to spin a story that Booker is uniquely positioned to set to prose. You will laugh and cry; be horrified and hopeful. But at the end of a dark ride through valleys of suppressed emotion, every reader will realize that at the end of the darkest and most violent of rainless thunder storms, our own tears can set up rainbows of promise.” – Jeff Johnson, author of Everything I’m Not Made Me Everything I Am

“Her revelations about the daily workings of a funeral home in a poor urban setting are transfixing.”
The New York Times Book Review
“A darkly comic memoir of life and death in urban America.”
Booklist Starred Review
“Booker’s coming-of-age story set against the business of death is filled with both tragedy and humor, and is wholly compelling in its humanity.”
Publishers Weekly
“Great literature and a powerful sense of humanity.”
Baltimore City Paper
Booker’s “insider's story manages to uplift and turn a glimpse of the dark side into a bright reveal of humanity.”
Creative Loafing