BookBrowse Reviews A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

A Lucky Man

Stories

by Jamel Brinkley

A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley X
A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2018, 264 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2019, 256 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A debut that reflects the tenderness and vulnerability of black men and boys in a world shaped by race, gender, and class.

If his debut collection of short stories, A Lucky Man is any indicator, Jamel Brinkley is poised on the cusp of becoming a literary superstar.

The essence of A Lucky Man can perhaps be best summed up by Brinkley's approach to the craft of writing in an interview he gave to The San Francisco Chronicle: "I finally got to the point where I'm taking...writing seriously, so what's the rush now? What's the point of bulldozing my way?" That measured attitude leads to less histrionics and more pathos, as his black, male characters grapple with the complexities of navigating everyday life in the United States where the chips are mostly stacked against them.

Toxic masculinity is increasingly under the microscope as part of contemporary discourse, and Brinkley unearths the reasons for these fractured men's equally fractured lives. Most of them have a complicated relationship with their fathers and this history looms large as they move forward. "All I wanted was fifteen bucks to go to the barbershop, but the thought of asking for it made me feel like punching a wall. It stressed me the hell out to ask Ma for anything, especially that summer, when I'd decided to leave my boyhood behind," says the young narrator of "J'ouvert 1996." "Pop would have known just what to say to calm me down or make me laugh. He wasn't around anymore though, and he had stopped responding to my letters." Without a male authority figure squarely by their side, where do these anchorless young men find succor? It's a question that delivers a variety of answers across the ten stories.

The intersection between race and gender fluidly plays out in how these men interact with the women around them. In "Wolf and Rhonda," the lead character Wilfred Jones is haunted by his treatment of an old classmate, but her summary dismissal of his advances at a class reunion crushes his ego even more. The shadow of shame and genuine bewilderment is cast over these men's interactions as they figure out the complicated language of women and family. The titular story shows that the protagonist, whose wife has left him, is anything but a lucky man, but his uncomfortable pastime of photographing women on the subway forces the reader to navigate the grey areas of character: Is he a good man or not? How deeply flawed is he?

In my favorite story in the collection, "I Happy Am," a black boy looks forward to a school field trip to a posh house in an upscale suburb, only to be disappointed that the owner is a black woman not much different than his own mother. Where is the fancy home and the fancy food, he wonders? "He didn't like the sensation of having driven an hour from home only to arrive at a bigger version of the same place." The story is a subtle yet riveting look at the view of white society and black aspiration.

"I just remember being very young and in certain circumstances, feeling very much at home in the idea of being a straight black male — maybe at home with family or friends — and other moments feeling like, well, I don't fit those expectations at all," Brinkley says in his Chronicle interview. The men in his compelling short story collection seem to feel the same way: they're comfortable in their skin and their identities, yet on occasion, completely confounded by their place in the world.

Reviewed by Poornima Apte

This review is from the May 16, 2018 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Art of Capoeira

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Fake Like Me
    Fake Like Me
    by Barbara Bourland
    After years of trying to make it as a painter in New York City, the unnamed narrator of Fake Like Me...
  • Book Jacket: Hungry
    Hungry
    by Jeff Gordinier
    Noma, René Redzepi's restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, has widely been considered among the ...
  • Book Jacket: With the Fire on High
    With the Fire on High
    by Elizabeth Acevedo
    From Like Water for Chocolate to Ratatouille, writers have recognized the power ...
  • Book Jacket: Lanny
    Lanny
    by Max Porter
    At once beautifully poignant and hauntingly grotesque, Max Porter's Lanny is like an unexpected ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Beirut Hellfire Society
    by Rawi Hage

    A searing and visionary novel set in 1970s Beirut that asks what it means to live through war.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
The Guest Book
by Sarah Blake

"An American epic in the truest sense…"
Entertainment Weekly

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win In the Full Light of the Sun

New from Clare Clark!

"Evocative prose and excellent pacing make this fine historical a must-read for art history buffs."
- Publishers Weekly

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A A A Day K T D A

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.