Stories from the Tenants Downstairs

S. & S. Audio. Aug. 2022. 6:04 hrs. ISBN 9781797145020. $19.99. F
NYC schoolteacher Fofana debuts with a short story collection set in Obama-era Harlem. Each of the eight stories centers on the life of a tenant living in the newly sold low-income apartment building, Banneker Terrace. Pressure to make rent is a stressor in the tenants’ already challenging lives and a common thread running throughout. As the tenants know one another and make appearances in each other’s stories, this collection begins to seem like a full-length narrative rather than individual parts. Fofana’s multigenerational tenants are vivid and fully developed. Within “Ms. Dallas,” for example, the unharnessed energy and group-thinking tendencies of the middle-school students are captured just as naturally as the frustration and tired incredulity of the middle-aged public-school paraprofessional. The edgy and raw language against the backdrop of the city enriches and authenticates these robust characters. The audiobook is narrated by a strong multi-actor cast, including the author, Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Nile Bullock, Dominic Hoffman, DePre Owens, André Santana, Bahni Turpin, and Jade Wheeler. Notable performances are Abbott-Pratt’s narration of “Rent Manual,” the author’s reading of “The Okiedoke,” and Hoffman’s talent in “Federation for the Like-Minded.”
VERDICT A vibrant short story collection brimming with NYC culture and authentic characters from a debut author with an insider’s perspective.
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