A LUCKY MAN, BY JAMEL BRINKLEY
Jamel Brinkley's short-story collection, A Lucky Man, delves into the lives of black boys and men through the NYC landscape of sex, isolation, and familial growing pains. He writes, “For most people there is a gap, for some a chasm, between the way they dream themselves and the way they are seen by others. That gap might be the true measure of one's loneliness.” Each story reflects the anger and pain wrought from losing someone or something invaluable to one’s identity—the loss of innocence and trust in a stepfather, the decline of a marriage, the vanished popularity and validation in high school, and the death of a best friend. In both functional and dysfunctional ways, each protagonist tries to find a way to reconcile themselves to their new reality. Some take capoeira classes with a sibling, delete questionable pictures off their phone, have sex with an old flame in a Catholic church, or enter into a relationship with a deceased friend's partner and child. “I realize now how strange it is to exist otherwise, especially in a big city, and I marvel at people rushing, rushing, rushing, headlong into things, how full of trust they are, how they can't see what often lurks behind the floating vapor of a smile.”
Brinkley’s stories read as portraits, which not only show the effects of masculinity, abuse, and poverty in the black community but also capture the solitude and what it is to come of age here. Above all, A Lucky Man captures universal emotions so that all readers can empathize with the specific trials experienced by these "lucky men."