A debut short story collection depicts men in the 21st-century American South.
A college dropout drifts from his mother’s home to the dwelling of an older German lover whose husband is serving in Iraq. A graduate student comes to terms with his intersectional identity. A frustrated science professor methodically destroys his own marriage. The men in the 11 stories in Haraway’s collection are all faced with momentous decisions. They can create or destroy; they can move forward or stagnate. They can become—or not become—the men they are capable of being. Scattered across the South, from Tennessee to Texas (with the exception of one outlying story set in the Colorado Rockies), the author’s carefully crafted characters are products of their regions, families, and circumstances. Several of them are young, just figuring out how to be men, but others are careening into middle age or widowerhood. The heroes of “The Doughnut Rebellion” are old enough that they reside in a nursing home. At times, Haraway can be heavy-handed. In “Back to Zero,” a young white resident of Memphis discusses an overlooked African-American musician’s career with a friend and observes to himself: “I never thought much about privilege, the thousand moments like this where one life is easier than another one, where obstacles are got around.” This is an important realization for a young white man, to be sure—and demonstrates Haraway’s strong attention to a changing South and a transforming America—but revelations like these could be portrayed with more subtlety. In other places, however, the author’s attention to detail and rhythm is quite effective. In “Lucy and the Early Men,” the narrator describes an article he wrote about an archaeological site on Native American land adjacent to the U.S.–Mexican border wall: “Just a bit of history that had helped me understand the wall. The age of bones. Finding the fishing gear and the boat evidence. A bunch of weapons.” Lines like these demonstrate Haraway’s developing mastery of the short story form and show that this book—and any subsequent works from the author—is worth a reader’s attention.
Well-crafted contemporary tales with Southern protagonists.