FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION
In the nine expansive, searching stories of A Lucky Man, fathers and sons attempt to salvage relationships with friends and family members and confront mistakes made in the past. An imaginative young boy from the Bronx goes swimming with his group from day camp at a backyard pool in the suburbs, and faces the effects of power and privilege in ways he can barely grasp. A teen intent on proving himself a man through the all-night revel of J’Ouvert can’t help but look out for his impressionable younger brother. A pair of college boys on the prowl follow two girls home from a party and have to own the uncomfortable truth of their desires. And at a capoeira conference, two brothers grapple with how to tell the story of their family, caught in the dance of their painful, fractured history.
Jamel Brinkley’s stories, in a debut that announces the arrival of a significant new voice, reflect the tenderness and vulnerability of black men and boys whose hopes sometimes betray them, especially in a world shaped by race, gender, and class—where luck may be the greatest fiction of all.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Jamel Brinkley’s debut collection gracefully combines politics and personal experience. Mostly set in the ‘80s and ‘90s, his nine short stories conjure emotionally rich sketches of Black men and boys growing up or growing old in America and explore issues of race, class, and masculinity. Against the backdrops of playgrounds, youth groups, class reunions, and college parties, Brinkley’s characters commit casual cruelties in their painstaking search for love and acceptance. He makes mundane details scintillating and drew us in with an ear for cutting dialogue.
The nine stories in Brinkley's promising debut address persistent issues of race, class, and masculinity across three decades of New York City's history, from Manhattan's corporatization in the mid-'90s to the outer boroughs' gentrification today. In "No More Than a Bubble," two black Columbia undergrads crash a house party in Brooklyn, where they pair off with two older women with confounding, less-than-successful results. An imaginative young man finds his expectations of upper-middle-class life dashed during a day trip to the suburbs in "I Happy Am," while a former convict reconnects with a dead buddy's girlfriend in "A Family." The title story and "Clifton's Place" are the collection's two most successful stories, the latter conveying the particular sadness of older African-Americans left adrift by market forces and "revitalization." Other entries, in plot and in prose, can feel too polite and mannered to register as memorable, nodding toward a stylistic exuberance and transgressive edge that never fully appear. Nonetheless, Brinkley's stories offer penetrating perspectives and stirring tragedies. , Correction: an earlier version of this review had an incorrect detail about a story and a misleading description.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Wow, just wow..