Matador offers a debut collection of coming-of-age tales in prose and verse.
This book invites readers into the mind of a millennial man from Columbia, Maryland. It opens on an airplane, where the speaker contemplates his generation, with its unique characteristics and challenges. The story then goes back in time to his parents’ meeting and his birth in 1988. Two childhood anecdotes follow; in one, the speaker’s grandmother saves him from choking on candy, and in the other, he and his father narrowly escape a mugging. In “Race Prose,” the narrator confronts discrimination and notices how the makers of movies and TV shows portray African-Americans as drug dealers or killers; the only successful black people that he sees are athletes or entertainers. These images are at odds with what he experiences in his racially and socio-economically diverse neighborhood. Carefree reveries arrive in a bicycling ode titled “The Cycler’s Romance” and in “Night Out at a Restaurant,” which pokes fun at common restaurant-industry terms, such as “booked,” “reservation,” “waiter,” and “on the side.” Subsequent poems contemplate ambition, insecurities, religion, and death. The book ends on a hopeful note, comparing potential to the sunrise, effort to a mountain climb, and the journey of life to an airplane ride. The author’s love for language and wordplay is evident throughout these pieces: “All remains the same until a noun commits a verb,” he writes early on. Matador also turns racial and ethnic biases on their heads in poems such as “Stereo-Types,” which depicts cultural misconceptions as boomboxes: A clerk tells a buyer that white ones have no “bounce,” Mexican ones “work all day and night,” and black ones “self-destruct.” His inventive similes are a particular delight: “Father knew the paths like the back of his hand, like a beach knows its sand, like the lead singer knows his band.” That said, the narrative, which begins as a personal account of growing up black in America, often takes detours into less insightful topics, such as playing cards or the internet. Still, Matador’s language often bounds off the page.
A fresh, tender, and clever work from a dynamic young voice.