In ‘Witness,’ Jamel Brinkley delivers 10 stunning stories set in Brooklyn and the Bronx.
On this week’s Fully Booked podcast, Jamel Brinkley joins us to discuss Witness (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Aug. 1), a sophomore story collection that meets the high mark set by his much-lauded debut, A Lucky Man(2018). “Short stories that in their depth of feeling, perception, and sense of place affirm their author’s bright promise,” Kirkus writes in a starred review of Witness.
Raised in Brooklyn and the Bronx, Brinkley teaches at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His stories have been published widely and twice anthologized in The Best American Short Stories. His aforementioned debut collection was a 2018 National Book Award finalist.
Here’s a bit more from our review of Witness: “As in his debut collection, A Lucky Man (2018), Brinkley sets these stories in New York City ethnic neighborhoods on the edge of transformation, vividly and, at times, hauntingly showing how the people in those enclaves struggle to withstand, even transcend the changes around them.…[C]haracters’ presumptions are upended, secrets revealed, and wounds, both physical and psychological, are exposed.…In some ways, the plots of these stories, however engrossing, are less significant than their vivid physical details, graceful language, and acute observation of even the most bewildering of human behavior. After just two collections, Brinkley may already be a grand master of the short story.”
Brinkley and host Megan Labrise discuss his experience at the National Book Awards ceremony in 2018; the importance of allowing characters to speculate about themselves in fiction; conjuring sense of place; the vibrant setting of his story “The Let-Out”; the age-old question, So when’s the novel coming out?; what he loves about short stories; short story writer Gina Berriault; our capacity for self-determination; the terse narrator of the story “Bartow Station”; and much more.
Then editors Laura Simeon, Mahnaz Dar, Eric Liebetrau, and Laurie Muchnick share their top picks in books for the week.
From Here by Luma Mufleh (Nancy Paulsen Books)
A Place Called America: A Story of the Land and People by Jennifer Thermes (Abrams)
Althea: The Life of Tennis Champion Althea Gibson by Sally H. Jacobs (St. Martin’s)
Knockout by Sarah MacLean (Avon/HarperCollins)
Also mentioned on this episode:
The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You by Dina Nayeri
Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, An American Town by Warren St. John
Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H
Afterward, Everything Was Different: A Tale From the Pleistocene by Jairo Buitrago, illus. by Rafael Yockteng, trans. by Elisa Amado
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
Thanks to our sponsors:
Take Good Care: 7 Wellness Rituals for Health, Strength & Hope by Dr. Dwight Chapin
Full Circle: A Jack Trench Thriller by Mike Howard
Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.