*Winner of the PEN Open Book Award*
*Winner of the Whiting Award*
*Longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award and Aspen Words Literary Prize*
*Nominated for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize*
*Finalist for the Kirkus Prize and Los Angeles Times Book Prize*
Included in Best Books of 2018 Lists from Refinery29, NPR, The Root, HuffPost, Vanity Fair, Bustle, Chicago Tribune, PopSugar, and The Undefeated.
In one of the season’s most acclaimed works of fiction—longlisted for the National Book Award and winner of the PEN Open Book Award—Nafissa Thompson-Spires offers “a firecracker of a book...a triumph of storytelling: intelligent, acerbic, and ingenious” (Financial Times).
Nafissa Thompson-Spires grapples with race, identity politics, and the contemporary middle class in this “vivid, fast, funny, way-smart, and verbally inventive” (George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo) collection.
Each captivating story plunges headfirst into the lives of utterly original characters. Some are darkly humorous—two mothers exchanging snide remarks through notes in their kids’ backpacks—while others are devastatingly poignant. In the title story, when a cosplayer, dressed as his favorite anime character, is mistaken for a violent threat the consequences are dire; in another story, a teen struggles between her upper middle class upbringing and her desire to fully connect with so-called black culture.
Thompson-Spires fearlessly shines a light on the simmering tensions and precariousness of black citizenship. Boldly resisting categorization and easy answers, Nafissa Thompson-Spires “has taken the best of what Toni Cade Bambara, Morgan Parker, and Junot Díaz do plus a whole lot of something we’ve never seen in American literature, blended it all together...giving us one of the finest short-story collections” (Kiese Laymon, author of Long Division).
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
There’s a stinger inside every one of Nafissa Thompson-Spires’ short stories. The passive-aggressive (and increasingly aggressive-aggressive) correspondence between the mothers of the only two black girls at an exclusive private school. A failed reality-TV concept about a biracial fruitarian family dabbling in polyamory. Thompson-Spires sifts through the muck of contemporary life and rages against hypocrisy, bullies, and superficiality. Her wicked sense of humor and her savvy, creative experiments with voice and language had us flying through her debut.
In Thompson-Spires's debut collection, she turns her keen eye onto members of the black community that don't often receive center stage a maker of YouTube videos that induce the tingly autonomous sensory meridian response in viewers ("Whisper to a Scream"), fruitarians ("The Subject of Consumption"), and the differently abled and the women who love them perhaps a little too much ("This Todd"). Thompson-Spires eschews the easy or sentimental, and there is a satirist in her that lends the stories a dark, funny edge; for example, Fatima learns how to be black from an albino girl named Violet. The confidence she gains from their lessons lands Fatima her first (white) boyfriend, to whom she betrays Violet's insecurities about her albinism. In the title story, an anime cosplayer named Riley brawls with self-published comics artist Brother Man outside the Los Angeles Convention Center the police, of course, misconstrue this, and an artist takes the opportunity to use the altercation and its aftermath in a personal project. This is also the most metafictional of the stories, with an omniscient "I" stepping away at the end to acknowledge the narrative clumsiness of the story before the reader can. Though the characters sometimes feel one-note, Thompson-Spires proves herself a trenchant humorist with an eye for social nuance.