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
  • Published:
    May 2018, 264 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: The Magnificent Esme Wells
    The Magnificent Esme Wells
    by Adrienne Sharp
    Esme Wells was not made to sit back and wait for her destiny. She was made to be magnificent. With ...
  • Book Jacket: Gateway to the Moon
    Gateway to the Moon
    by Mary Morris
    Miguel Torres is a teenager living in Entrada de la Luna, a poverty-stricken dot on the New Mexico ...
  • Book Jacket: New World, Inc.
    New World, Inc.
    by Simon Targett, John Butman
    When we think about the founding of America, we typically envision Pilgrims in black garb and boxy ...
  • Book Jacket: New World, Inc.
    New World, Inc.
    by Simon Targett, John Butman
    When we think about the founding of America, we typically envision Pilgrims in black garb and boxy ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Harbor of Spies by Robin Lloyd

A captivating thriller-at-sea set in Spanish colonial Havana in the 1860s.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Anatomy of a Miracle
    by Jonathan Miles

    A stunning novel that offers an exploration of faith, science and the meaning of life.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

When men are not regretting that life is so short, they are doing something to kill time.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I Wouldn't T H W A T-F P

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 books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.