Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self

Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2010. c.240p. ISBN 9781594487699. $25.95. F
This debut collection is contemporary, powerful, and very real. While race is a factor throughout, with biracial characters, mixed-race romantic relationships, and plenty of interaction among people of different ethnicities, it remains subsidiary to themes like family relationships, romantic attachments, coming-of-age, belonging, and searching or yearning for direction in life. In "Virgins," for instance, two teenage best friends both share and compete until one gets just a bit ahead with a boy. In "Snakes," nine-year-old Allison and her adoptive sister summer with their grandmother, contending with her strict rules and the legacy of their mom. A broad cast of characters fills these pages, from working class to privileged, from modest to exceptional, including a high school valedictorian, Ivy League students, professors, and successful businesspeople. "Jellyfish" captures the range, featuring a man finally moving from Harlem to Brooklyn when his roof caves in, who's late for lunch as always with his conscientious artist daughter.
VERDICT A smartly written and enjoyable collection from an up-and-coming author; particularly recommended for those interested in contemporary relationships in our increasingly diverse and global society.
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