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Jamel Brinkley’s debut presents us with beautifully constructed stories that are both grounded and far-reaching. Brinkley’s strength lies in the examination of his characters that not only details the everyday essence of their lives, but shows true respect and compassion for the fullness of their humanity. Somehow both quiet and vibrantly loud, Brinkley’s narratives are driven just as much by the unspoken as what is said aloud. This book repairs family bonds and unearths buried trauma; it considers kids let down by their parents and adults disappointed by their partners. It finds children grappling with the intersection of race and class. This is a collection inhabited by black men and boys looking for the best in each other and in themselves, making mistakes, and learning all of the horror and beauty that the world contains for them.
— Elizabeth Willis
Jamel Brinkley paints vivid, candid portraits of men of varying ages in his debut, A Lucky Man. It is with an economy of language that Brinkley presents intricate and very different universes in these tight short stories, each focusing on a boy or man in a particular moment in their life. A Lucky Man gave me a glimpse into a humanity that isn't often examined. There is so much to learn.
— Rachel Watkins
May 2018 Indie Next List
“A Lucky Man marks the arrival of a brilliant new voice in contemporary fiction. In quiet, elegant prose, debut author Jamel Brinkley renders characters who are universally relatable yet entirely unique, with all the complexities and subtleties of living, breathing people. As I read their stories, I was swept up into the lives of these characters, so much so that at times I forgot I was reading fiction and felt instead that I was reading letters from old friends. This is an important and powerful collection. Its slice-of-life stories glow with a soft light, revealing rich detail and vibrant beauty in the dark corners of human experience. Every moment held me in silent awe.”
— Jason Foose, Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, AZ
"This is the rare debut that introduces not a promising talent but a major writer, fully formed." --Garth Greenwell
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.
About the Author
Jamel Brinkley's stories have appeared in A Public Space, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and has been a Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing Fellow. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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