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GOD'S CHILDREN ARE LITTLE BROKEN THINGS

Deftly capturing the richness and dangers of romantic connection, these stories complicate and reimagine queer narratives.

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Nine blazing stories about the joys and tribulations of queer love in contemporary Nigeria.

The stories of Ifeakandu’s debut collection are nothing less than breathtaking and daring, each exploring queer relationships in all their nuanced and unpredictable configurations: secret romances, brief but passionate encounters, relationships that are tested by cultural pressures. At the centers of these carefully constructed stories are queer men whose identities and romances are constantly ruptured by political turmoil and by stratified social and cultural ideas of masculinity. What, these characters ask themselves, makes a man? How to reconcile the tension between one’s interior self—one’s burning hopes and desires—and the expectations that family and tradition have foisted on him? The opening story, “The Dreamer’s Litany,” examines the relationship between Auwal, a small-business owner, and Chief, a wealthy and flamboyant man who promises to help Auwal with his business for a price; the two men develop a sexual relationship, though Auwal is not convinced he can really trust Chief and his wife begins to suspect there’s something taking place between them. “Where the Heart Sleeps” is a moving tale of Nonye, a young woman returning to her father’s house for his funeral. There, she gradually opens up to Tochukwu, her father’s partner, whom she has resented for taking her father from her mother and her. The title story follows the romance of Lotanna and Kamsi, two college boys who must constantly renegotiate their commitments to each other as family and social pressure threaten to pry them apart. In “What the Singers Say About Love,” a young musician’s ascent into the public eye requires that he subdue major pieces of himself and pull away from the man he loves. Using a variety of forms, including stories broken up into numbered sections and stories employing first-, second-, and third-person narrators, many of these tales bear the emotional weight and complexity of novels, with the reader pulled forward by lucid prose and excellent pacing. Most compelling, though, are the unforgettable characters and the relationships that hurl them into the unknown and dangerous depths of their desires.

Deftly capturing the richness and dangers of romantic connection, these stories complicate and reimagine queer narratives.

Pub Date: June 7, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-7345907-1-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: A Public Space Books

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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DEMON COPPERHEAD

An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

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Inspired by David Copperfield, Kingsolver crafts a 21st-century coming-of-age story set in America’s hard-pressed rural South.

It’s not necessary to have read Dickens’ famous novel to appreciate Kingsolver’s absorbing tale, but those who have will savor the tough-minded changes she rings on his Victorian sentimentality while affirming his stinging critique of a heartless society. Our soon-to-be orphaned narrator’s mother is a substance-abusing teenage single mom who checks out via OD on his 11th birthday, and Demon’s cynical, wised-up voice is light-years removed from David Copperfield’s earnest tone. Yet readers also see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath his self-protective exterior. Like pretty much everyone else in Lee County, Virginia, hollowed out economically by the coal and tobacco industries, he sees himself as someone with no prospects and little worth. One of Kingsolver’s major themes, hit a little too insistently, is the contempt felt by participants in the modern capitalist economy for those rooted in older ways of life. More nuanced and emotionally engaging is Demon’s fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it. Kingsolver’s ferocious indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, angrily stated by a local girl who has become a nurse, is in the best Dickensian tradition, and Demon gives a harrowing account of his descent into addiction with his beloved Dori (as naïve as Dickens’ Dora in her own screwed-up way). Does knowledge offer a way out of this sinkhole? A committed teacher tries to enlighten Demon’s seventh grade class about how the resource-rich countryside was pillaged and abandoned, but Kingsolver doesn’t air-brush his students’ dismissal of this history or the prejudice encountered by this African American outsider and his White wife. She is an art teacher who guides Demon toward self-expression, just as his friend Tommy provokes his dawning understanding of how their world has been shaped by outside forces and what he might be able to do about it.

An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-325-1922

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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THE MAN WHO LIVED UNDERGROUND

A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

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A falsely accused Black man goes into hiding in this masterful novella by Wright (1908-1960), finally published in full.

Written in 1941 and '42, between Wright’s classics Native Son and Black Boy, this short novel concerns Fred Daniels, a modest laborer who’s arrested by police officers and bullied into signing a false confession that he killed the residents of a house near where he was working. In a brief unsupervised moment, he escapes through a manhole and goes into hiding in a sewer. A series of allegorical, surrealistic set pieces ensues as Fred explores the nether reaches of a church, a real estate firm, and a jewelry store. Each stop is an opportunity for Wright to explore themes of hope, greed, and exploitation; the real estate firm, Wright notes, “collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent from poor colored folks.” But Fred’s deepening existential crisis and growing distance from society keep the scenes from feeling like potted commentaries. As he wallpapers his underground warren with cash, mocking and invalidating the currency, he registers a surrealistic but engrossing protest against divisive social norms. The novel, rejected by Wright’s publisher, has only appeared as a substantially truncated short story until now, without the opening setup and with a different ending. Wright's take on racial injustice seems to have unsettled his publisher: A note reveals that an editor found reading about Fred’s treatment by the police “unbearable.” That may explain why Wright, in an essay included here, says its focus on race is “rather muted,” emphasizing broader existential themes. Regardless, as an afterword by Wright’s grandson Malcolm attests, the story now serves as an allegory both of Wright (he moved to France, an “exile beyond the reach of Jim Crow and American bigotry”) and American life. Today, it resonates deeply as a story about race and the struggle to envision a different, better world.

A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-59853-676-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Library of America

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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