EVERYDAY PEOPLE by Jennifer Baker

EVERYDAY PEOPLE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Short fiction from a diverse array of writers of color.

Gathering both emerging and established voices, editor Baker has produced a vital anthology whose strength lies in its unwillingness to commit to a single genre or style. Some of the stories, like Courttia Newland's creepy science-fiction adventure "Link," are explicitly political. Newland tells the story of Aaron, a black British college student who possesses mysterious psychic abilities. On the eve of the 2016 Brexit referendum, he encounters other young people of color with similar abilities; soon, they face the temptation of using their powers to punish those who would exclude them. Other stories, like Glendaliz Camacho's haunting "Long Enough to Drown," are less explicitly political. Camacho concerns herself with the particular textures of an Afro-Latinx woman's romantic longing for her dead boyfriend's brother. Brandon's race—he is a white Irish man, "quite the trophy to bring home," as the narrator says—raises important questions about what drives desire. Alexander Chee's "Mine" follows a young gay son of Korean immigrants. Perhaps the most surprising entry comes from Brandon Taylor: His lyrical "Boy/Gamin" follows a young white boy from childhood to adolescence. Written in the urgency of the present tense, the story tracks Jackson's struggle to accommodate his budding desire for other boys. One of those love interests is a young black boy named Eric, about whom Jackson has vivid fantasies. While floating off the Montgomery, Alabama, shore, "he imagines he can feel Eric's fingers on his stomach...he sees Eric's face, long and angular like a dog's, black skin everywhere, green eyes staring over thick lashes. He's beautiful and skinny and Jackson wants to punch him in the nose to make him ugly." This sentence displays the audacious complexity of Taylor's prose as he straddles the confusion of adolescent desire, emerging queerness, and racial difference. Not every story works: Jason Reynolds' "African-American Special" relies too heavily on voice, while Yiyun Li's "A Sheltered Woman" suffers for not having enough space to unfold the mysteries that accumulate around Chinese immigrant Auntie Mei.

This is a vital, riveting anthology that emphasizes the complexity and diversity of minority experience.

Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-5011-3494-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Atria
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2018




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