In nine powerful stories set in Brooklyn and the South Bronx, A Lucky Man (Graywolf Press/A Public Space Books) announces the arrival of a significant new voice in fiction. Jamel Brinkley, with incisive and nuanced prose, explores the charged, complex ties between men whose mistakes threaten their relationships with friends, lovers, and family members.
An imaginative young boy from the Bronx goes swimming with his day camp group at a backyard pool in the suburbs, and faces the effects of power and privilege in ways he can barely grasp. A teen intent on proving himself a man at the all-night revel of J’ouvert is preoccupied by watching out for his impressionable younger brother. A pair of college boys on the prowl follow two girls home from a party and have to own the uncomfortable truth of their desires. And at a capoeira conference, two brothers grapple with how to tell the story of their family, caught in the dance of their painful, fractured history.
A striking and indelible debut, A Lucky Man reflects the tenderness and vulnerability of black men and boys whose hopes sometimes betray them, especially in a world shaped by race, gender, and class—where luck may be the greatest fiction of all.
"A Lucky Man is just one of those collections that takes your breath away: the voices we hear, the people we meet, they scratch and pull and ache and rage, revealing secrets we usually keep hidden. Every line is pitch perfect. Jamel Brinkley is a writer of extraordinary talent."
—Daniel Alarcón, author of The King is Always Above the People
"Jamel Brinkley writes the kind of fiction that reads like the whole truth. As his characters —from estranged siblings in Virginia to surrogate families inBrooklyn—love, hurt, challenge, and sometimes save each other, their stories vividly expose our ideas of masculinity and the fumes of racism and injustice in the American air we breathe. A Lucky Man is full of insight and music—a bold, urgent debut."
—Mia Alvar, author of In the Country
"I loved this book. From sentence to sentence, these stories are beautifully written, and they are wonderfully moving and smart about the connections—firm, broken, or mended—between siblings, and parents and their children, and couples who profess to love each other. Jamel Brinkley writes like an angel, but he also knows how low human beings can sometimes go, despite their own best intentions. How does luck, or its absence, visit our lives? Read these stories and find out."
—Charles Baxter, author of There’s Something I Want You To Do
"There’s just no way to overstate this: A Lucky Man is a stunning debut. Richer than most novels, this collection calls a whole world into being, and the names and fates of these people will follow you into your life and never leave. Ambitious themes arc across the entire book—troubled masculinity, family in all its broken forms—but on a lower frequency these are love stories, intimately told. And they could come from no other than Jamel Brinkley, so there’s the pleasure of that encounter too, of hearing a new voice for the first time, and taking a deep plunge into the allegory of an artist’s soul."
—Charles D’Ambrosio, author of Loitering
"The stories in A Lucky Man have a necessary urgency—their characters need to confess or seek comfort, to tell the reader how they’ve been wounded or whose hurt they carry. These stories do not shy away from heartbreak and brutal consequences, but they always remember how much of the way to despair was beautiful and full of tenderness and joy. An unforgettable collection by an important new voice."
—Danielle Evans, author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self
"This is the rare debut that introduces not a promising talent but a major writer, fully formed. The psychological penetration of these stories astonishes me, as do the grace and emotional scope of their sentences. Jamel Brinkley is brilliant, the real thing, a revelation."
—Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You
"A Lucky Man is subtle yet loud, heartbreaking yet utterly unsentimental, uncompromising yet a damn good read. These breathtaking stories find energy in the friction of humanity’s contradictions. In this masterfully written debut, Jamel Brinkley proves he’s got next."
—Mat Johnson, author of Loving Day
"Jamel Brinkley’s stories tell of absence and abandonment, sometimes confronted and sometimes met with resignation, but always edged with pain and beauty. In vibrant yet restrained prose, Brinkley illuminates the longing for home, which lurks in all of us. A magnificent debut."
—Laila Lalami, author of The Moor’s Account
"There’s true magic in Jamel Brinkley’s stories. He finds the subtle and humane lurking within the drama of our lives. Brinkley writes with great insight and honesty about people you’ll recognize, flawed but still worthwhile. By using all his formidable talents, he’s shown us a vision of ourselves."
—Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling
"A Lucky Man is filled with characters who long to become better sons, better fathers, better friends, better lovers. Often they have no words for their complicated feelings. Happily they are the creations of an author who has all the words. Jamel Brinkley is a wonderful writer and these richly imagined stories will stay with the lucky reader long after the last page."
—Margot Livesey, author of Mercury
"The lucky men of Brinkley’s debut are haunted: by the past, by family, by love, and ultimately by masculinity itself. These sober and elegant stories delve deep. A debut of subtlety and power."
—Ayana Mathis, author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
"Jamel Brinkley’s A Lucky Man captures so perfectly the myriad ways in which we struggle daily not only for connection but to be heard and understood. At once covert and exuberant, ferocious and tender, heartbreaking and hilarious, these are the stories we always needed. A marvelous debut, glowing with life, and a major new voice in American fiction."
—Paul Yoon, author of The Mountain