BookBrowse has a new look! Learn more about the update here.

Reviews of We Are a Haunting by Tyriek White

We Are a Haunting by Tyriek White

We Are a Haunting

A Novel

by Tyriek White
  • BookBrowse Review:
  • Critics' Consensus:
  • First Published:
  • Apr 25, 2023
  • Paperback:
  • Apr 2024
  • Rate this book

  • Buy This Book

About This Book

Book Summary

A poignant debut for readers of Jesmyn Ward and Jamel Brinkley, We Are a Haunting follows three generations of a working class family and their inherited ghosts: a story of hope and transformation.

In 1980s Brooklyn, Key is enchanted with her world, glowing with her dreams. A charming and tender doula serving the Black women of her East New York neighborhood, she lives, like her mother, among the departed and learns to speak to and for them. Her untimely death leaves behind her mother Audrey, who is on the verge of losing the public housing apartment they once shared. Colly, Key's grieving son, soon learns that he too has inherited this sacred gift and begins to slip into the liminal space between the living and the dead on his journey to self-realization.

In the present, an expulsion from school forces Colly across town where, feeling increasingly detached and disenchanted with the condition of his community, he begins to realize that he must, ultimately, be accountable to the place he is from. After college, having forged an understanding of friendship, kinship, community, and how to foster love in places where it seems impossible, Colly returns to East New York to work toward addressing structural neglect and the crumbling blocks of New York City public housing he was born to; discovering a collective path forward from the wreckages of the past.

A supernatural family saga, a searing social critique, and a lyrical and potent account of displaced lives, We Are a Haunting unravels the threads connecting the past, present, and future, and depicts the palpable, breathing essence of the neglected corridors of a pulsing city with pathos and poise.

To what end does one conjure the ghost of slavery, if not to incite the hopes of transforming the present?
- SAIDIYA HARTMAN

PROLOGUE

One day, I fell backward into a scar in the world, a fall sudden and lasting. A portal took me whole, sent me traveling across a pulse that could split me down the middle. I tumbled out the other side, a terrible moaning like a hive of meat bees.

I had been pedaling down the block on an unkempt length of road on Flatlands, barreling ahead, ripping along twisted storefronts and storage lots. the smell of hot metal filled the air, lodged itself at the back of my tongue and burned as I tried to catch my breath. I had reached the Belt Parkway and the creek widened, blooming into the bay and into the Atlantic, the dark basin, murky with trash and wildlife, boats twinkling in the distance. the water emptied into a reservoir where it was drained and then treated. there were heating and waste stations, chimneys that gagged out heavy smoke and stray embers ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Of the three timelines that saturate the story — 1988 when Key begins her career as a doula, 2007 when Key dies, and 2016 when college-educated Colly returns to the city that raised him — I was especially fascinated by the late 80s, when AIDS is rampant in New York and Key, in her caretaking role, shows tireless stewardship for the pregnant and vulnerable. She thrives in this role while also making note of how it is part of the history she comes from to soothe the discriminated-against helpless: "We have been just like this for centuries, boiling water, laying out rags, soothing a young girl with coos and whispers, all the while at the helm of a war being waged against their existence."..continued

Full Review (767 words)

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Valerie Morales).

Media Reviews

NPR
This is a stunningly original and beautiful novel of devotion, a book that gives and gives as it asks us what it means to be part of a family, of a community. Early novels like this don't come around very often; this one brings to mind titles like Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon and Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine. It's an absolute triumph.

Foreword Reviews (starred review)
The multivoiced novel develops each wounded person in terms of their connections to the city. Their stories are linked by rhapsodic longing ... There are vigorous details from their lives that evoke deep understanding of their problems. And as Colly is tender in recalling Key in the midst of his own experiences; his bereavement is indelible, and it overlays the book's cityscapes, both rending and buoying him. ... A Black family's history becomes a salve for its wandering son in the potent novel We Are a Haunting.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Poignant and poetic ... Each character is acutely aware of the weight of their forebears, which White uses to effectively tell a story that is both intimate and sweeping ... White works wonders with this inspired story of grief and the struggle for hope

Kirkus Reviews
We Are a Haunting's wide-ranging, multivocal, quick-shifting style—which incorporates frequent allusions to literature and visual art, brand names and the neighborhood prestige attached to them, and a mixtape element—serves admirably to emphasize the book's ambition, which is to capture and to celebrate not just these characters, this family, but the community and the city they emerge from, serve, and love. An intelligent, gritty, discursive group portrait of working-class New York from the 1980s to now.

Author Blurb Jacqueline Woodson, MacArthur Fellow and author of Another Brooklyn
What a beautiful, haunting and hued narrative of American living. I'm in love with this story and the way Tyriek White breathes life into these characters.

Author Blurb Kiese Laymon, MacArthur Fellow and author of the NAACP Image Award winner Long Division
Tyriek White did not come to play. He is doing something for New York narratives I've never seen, and really never imagined. This novel is so New York—so, so New York—yet so deeply southern on lower frequencies. It's astonishing.

Author Blurb Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of Friday Black and Chain-Gang All-Stars
This is the city. This is beauty, this is harshness. With this magnificent debut Tyriek White emerges as a seer and necessary voice.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book



The Importance of Doulas Today

Black-and-white photo of a pregnant woman's body in profile, showing hands on belly Despite its original ancient Greek definition of "a woman who serves," the word "doula" has come to mean "one who mothers the mother." In caring for mothers and their newborns, doulas advocate, listen, advise and comfort. They are professionally trained to provide emotional and informational support during pregnancy and labor as well as after birth, sometimes specializing in one of these periods. Doulas also manage anxiety, depression and fear.

In earlier generations in many parts of the world, women were not part of the workforce. When a new mother came home with her baby, or when she delivered the baby at home, she was typically cared for by her own mother, and perhaps her sister and a couple of aunties, who helped her manage the ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked We Are a Haunting, try these:

  • Remember Us jacket

    Remember Us

    by Jacqueline Woodson

    Published 2023

    About this book

    More by this author

    Winner: BookBrowse YA Book Award 2023

    National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson brings readers a powerful story that delves deeply into life's burning questions about time and memory and what we take with us into the future.

  • Perish jacket

    Perish

    by LaToya Watkins

    Published 2023

    About this book

    More by this author

    From a stunning new voice, comes a powerful debut novel, Perish, about a Black Texan family, exploring the effects of inherited trauma and intergenerational violence as the family comes together to say goodbye to their matriarch on her deathbed.

We have 4 read-alikes for We Are a Haunting, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start
discovering exceptional books!
Find Out More

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Bury Your Gays
    Bury Your Gays
    by Chuck Tingle
    Chuck Tingle, for those who don't know, is the pseudonym of an eccentric writer best known for his ...
  • Book Jacket: Blue Ruin
    Blue Ruin
    by Hari Kunzru
    Like Red Pill and White Tears, the first two novels in Hari Kunzru's loosely connected Three-...
  • Book Jacket: A Gentleman and a Thief
    A Gentleman and a Thief
    by Dean Jobb
    In the Roaring Twenties—an era known for its flash and glamour as well as its gangsters and ...
  • Book Jacket: Early Sobrieties
    Early Sobrieties
    by Michael Deagler
    Dennis Monk is sober now, and he expects some applause. Or at least some recognition that he's ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Lady Tan's Circle of Women
by Lisa See
Lisa See's latest historical novel, inspired by the true story of a woman physician from 15th-century China.
Book Jacket
The 1619 Project
by Nikole Hannah-Jones
An impactful expansion of groundbreaking journalism, The 1619 Project offers a revealing vision of America's past and present.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Very Long, Very Strange Life of Isaac Dahl
    by Bart Yates

    A saga spanning 12 significant days across nearly 100 years in the life of a single man.

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

L T C O of the B

and be entered to win..

Win This Book
Win Smothermoss

Smothermoss by Alisa Alering

A haunting, imaginative, and twisting tale of two sisters and the menacing, unexplained forces that threaten them and their rural mountain community.

Enter