Sidik Fofana's first book is a series of connected stories written from the perspectives of the tenants of a residential building in Harlem. The chapters in Stories From the Tenants Downstairs are solely unique as each tenant's struggles with rising rent cause different outcomes and each person tells their story in different formats and styles. This book shines a light on what millions of Americans are experiencing today: the exhausting, funny, desperate, and hopeful human experience.
— Rachel Watkins
Set in a Harlem high rise, a stunning debut about a tight-knit cast of characters grappling with their own personal challenges while the forces of gentrification threaten to upend life as they know it.
Like Gloria Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place and Lin Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, Sidik Fofana’s electrifying collection of eight interconnected stories showcases the strengths, struggles, and hopes of one residential community in a powerful storytelling experience.
Each short story follows a tenant in the Banneker Homes, a low-income high rise in Harlem where gentrification weighs on everyone’s mind. There is Swan in apartment 6B, whose excitement about his friend’s release from prison jeopardizes the life he’s been trying to lead. Mimi, in apartment 14D, who hustles to raise the child she had with Swan, waitressing at Roscoe’s and doing hair on the side. And Quanneisha B. Miles, a former gymnast with a good education who wishes she could leave Banneker for good, but can’t seem to escape the building’s gravitational pull. We root for these characters and more as they weave in and out of each other’s lives, endeavoring to escape from their pasts and blaze new paths forward for themselves and the people they love.
Stories from the Tenants Downstairs brilliantly captures the joy and pain of the human experience and heralds the arrival of a uniquely talented writer.
About the Author
Sidik Fofana earned an MFA from New York University. He lives with his wife and son in New York City where he is a public school teacher.
“Fofana shows an ear for pacing and for evocative, frequently musical language. He expertly handles the structure of each story and of the collection as a whole... Fofana's is a striking voice, and his protagonists will linger in readers' imaginations."–Shelf Awareness
"The residents of a low-income high-rise apartment building in Harlem form the beating heart of Fofana’s dynamic debut collection. The hardscrabble tenants of Banneker Terrace tread water while their greedy landlord imposes evictions... Fofana delivers the hardy, profane, violent, and passionate narration in Black English Vernacular, and finds the humanity in all her characters as they struggle to get by. These engrossing and gritty stories of tenuous living in a gentrifying America enchant." –Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review)
“Eight interconnected stories set in a low-income Harlem high rise give faces, voices, and meaning to lives otherwise neglected or marginalized. The stories assembled in this captivating debut collection feel vividly and desperately authentic. ‘Ms. Dallas’ may well be the collection’s most caustically observant and poignantly tender story. Those willing to use their ears more than their eyes to read along will find a rich, ribald, and engagingly funny vein of verbal music, as up-to-the-minute as hip-hop, but as rooted in human verities as Elizabethan dialogue. The publisher compares this book to Gloria Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights. One could also invoke James Joyce’s Dubliners in the stories’ collective and multilayered evocation of place, time, and people. A potentially significant voice in African American fiction asserts itself with wit and compassion.” –Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"In the same way that Gordon Parks captured the brilliance of ordinary Americans, Sidik Fofana elevates the every day through his vivid depictions of Banneker Terrace's captivating residents. Yes, Stories from the Tenants Downstairs is funny, and yes, it is a collection that will make your jaw drop several times, but its true power lies in what it has to say about community, and how this road called life is more bearable when we walk it together. What a gift Fofana’s writing is, especially now." –Mateo Askaripour, author of Black Buck
“Stories from The Tenants Downstairs heralds an indelible, inimitable new literary voice. Sidik’s stories are full of humanity and humor and hope, full of insight into the plight of people too often pushed to the margins of America-the-dream. By the end of this collection, the tenants of Banneker Terrace felt as intimate as my own neighbors, friends, family—a testament to the immense fullness with which Sidik portrayed their lives. This magnificent collection is not only a great joy to read, it’s evocative, essential art.” –Mitchell S. Jackson, author of Survival Math and The Residue Years
"Sidik Fofana's timely collection is full of tenderness and truth. With it, he has given us a beautiful blueprint for the gentrification story: let it be bold, let it honor the complexities of those who are struggling to hold on. These stories are at once intimate and familiar, and utterly original. I braced myself, I laughed, and I shuddered. The voices of the residents of Banneker Terrace linger and echo long after the last page. A tremendous debut!" –Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
"Every once in a while a new writer comes along and refreshes our notions of what fiction can do. Sidik Fofana is one of those rare and wonderful writers, and what he does with these stories, and with our beautiful, bottomless American language, is nothing short of revelatory. Buy this book, and prepare to be blasted by the brilliance inside." –Ben Fountain, author of Beautiful Country Burn Again
“Sidik Fofana’s Stories from the Tenants Downstairs is the book I’ve been waiting for ever since reading the first few of Mr. Fofana's stories eight years ago. I had never read anything quite like them. They have brilliant architecture that can go unnoticed beneath the carefully textured voices. The author knows this community and its predicaments and has assembled a cast that will break your heart but also at times put your heart back together again. Mr. Fofana has an acute ear and a perfect eye, and he doesn’t rush. This is important American art.” –Lorrie Moore, author of Bark