A Lucky Man

A Lucky Man
Jamel Brinkley

“[A Lucky Man] may include only nine stories, but in each of them, Brinkley gives us an entire world.”—NPR.org

“The stories hit with a silent thunder that reverberates within you long after you’ve finished them.”San Francisco Chronicle

About the Book

“This is the rare debut that introduces not a promising talent but a major writer, fully formed”—Garth Greenwell
In the nine expansive, searching stories of A Lucky Man, fathers and sons attempt to salvage relationships with friends and family members and confront mistakes made in the past. An imaginative young boy from the Bronx goes swimming with his group from day camp at a backyard pool in the suburbs, and faces the effects of power and privilege in ways he can barely grasp. A teen intent on proving himself a man through the all-night revel of J’ouvert can’t help but look out for his impressionable younger brother. A pair of college boys on the prowl follow two girls home from a party and have to own the uncomfortable truth of their desires. And at a capoeira conference, two brothers grapple with how to tell the story of their family, caught in the dance of their painful, fractured history.

Jamel Brinkley’s stories, in a debut that announces the arrival of a significant new voice, reflect the tenderness and vulnerability of black men and boys whose hopes sometimes betray them, especially in a world shaped by race, gender, and class—where luck may be the greatest fiction of all.

Additional Reviews

“Brinkley’s collection A Lucky Man, already creating waves within the literary sphere, manages to be simultaneously polemical and immersive, in a series of tenderly insightful studies of masculinity, race, and the scars of history.”Entertainment Weekly

“Through pages of peerless prose and startlingly sharp sentences, what ultimately emerges is a constantly reframed argument about the role and power of masculinity, where vulnerability pulses beneath a skin of self preservation.”Los Angeles Times

“With equal parts precision and poetry, these nine audacious stories step into the minefields awaiting boys of color as they approach manhood in Brooklyn and the Bronx—testing the limits of relationships, social norms, and their own definitions of masculinity.”O, the Oprah Magazine

“Brinkley shows both the great beauty and ugliness of humanity—but always with empathy—and captures the ways in which our world is defined and divided by power.”BuzzFeed

“What a distinct pleasure it is to get in on the early side of a burgeoning career, to read a work that introduces a new and important voice in the literary world. The stories in Jamel Brinkley’s debut are both confident in their execution and profoundly moving in their style.”Vulture

“This spectacular debut signals an important new literary voice in Jamel Brinkley.”Nylon

“An unmissable debut short story collection, Jamel Brinkley’s poignant A Lucky Man is revelatory in its crafting of prose and language. A wonderful read.”The Root

“Spectacular. . . . Quite simply stunning. . . . [Jamel Brinkley] shines a light on difficult truths.”Nylon

“The nine stories in Brinkley’s promising debut address persistent issues of race, class, and masculinity across three decades of New York City’s history. . . . Brinkley’s stories offer penetrating perspectives and stirring tragedies.”Publishers Weekly

“Brinkley’s debut collection, A Lucky Man, comprised of tenderly poignant narratives of boys becoming men, of fractured intimacy, of masculinity as learned performance, is vital and necessary.”The Masters Review

“It's difficult to single out any story as most outstanding since they are each distinguished by Brinkley's lyrical invention. . . . A major talent.”Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“What impresses first is the length and strength, the sheer weightiness of each detailed and meditative story.”Library Journal

“In Brinkley’s work, no character is left untended, no aspect of identity is overlooked, and the results are well-inhabited worlds that feel infinite. . . . A Lucky Man is not only a standout debut for the year, but also a testament to what can be achieved in a short story.”Chicago Review of Books

“A collection as fine as this, of fiction that is reflecting our world and searching for the truth, is one to be treasured, read and reread, admired, and loved.”Ploughshares

A Lucky Man . . . reminds me of Moonlight. . . . Brinkley explores black men under both the pressurized violence and bottled up tenderness that undoes them at every turn. This is a book that acknowledges male stereotypes while subverting them and exploring the psychic damage they leave in their wake.”—KQED, “The Spine”

“With this memorable collection, Brinkley emerges as a gifted and empathetic new writer.”Booklist, starred review

A Lucky Man will be introduced to syllabi across the country and beyond upon its release, that much is certain. The fact that it is a debut is astonishing.”The Wilds

“With stunning clarity and generosity of detail, each of the nine stories leaves its own lasting impression, while the book as a whole coalesces into a devastating tapestry of confused masculinity, familial responsibility, and the intractable power of privilege to impede upon and redraw the boundaries of a life.”American Short Fiction

“This is an assured and important collection that could not be more timely.”Kenyon Review

“The lucky men of Brinkley’s debut are haunted: by the past, by family, by love and ultimately by masculinity itself. These sober and elegant stories delve deep. A debut of subtlety and power.”—Ayana Mathis, author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

A Lucky Man is filled with characters who long to become better sons, better fathers, better friends, better lovers. Often they have no words for their complicated feelings. Happily they are the creations of an author who has all the words. Jamel Brinkley is a wonderful writer and these richly imagined stories will stay with the lucky reader long after the last page.”—Margot Livesey, author of Mercury

“Jamel Brinkley writes the kind of fiction that reads like the whole truth. As his characters—from estranged siblings in Virginia to surrogate families in Brooklyn—love, hurt, challenge, and sometimes save each other, their stories vividly expose our ideas of masculinity and the fumes of racism and injustice in the American air we breathe. A Lucky Man is full of insight and music—a bold, urgent debut.”—Mia Alvar, author of In the Country

A Lucky Man is just one of those collections that takes your breath away: the voices we hear, the people we meet, they scratch and pull and ache and rage, revealing secrets we usually keep hidden. Every line is pitch perfect. Jamel Brinkley is a writer of extraordinary talent.”—Daniel Alarcón, author of The King is Always Above the People

A Lucky Man is subtle yet loud, heartbreaking yet utterly unsentimental, uncompromising yet a damn good read. These breathtaking stories find energy in the friction of humanity’s contradictions. In this masterfully written debut, Jamel Brinkley’s proves he’s got next.”—Mat Johnson, author of Pym and Loving Day

“The stories in A Lucky Man have a necessary urgency—their characters need to confess or seek comfort, to tell the reader how they’ve been wounded or whose hurt they carry. These stories do not shy away from heartbreak and brutal consequences, but they always remember how much of the way to despair was beautiful and full of tenderness and joy. An unforgettable collection by an important new voice."—Danielle Evans, author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self

“Jamel Brinkley’s stories tell of absence and abandonment, sometimes confronted and sometimes met with resignation, but always edged with pain and beauty. In vibrant yet restrained prose, Brinkley illuminates the longing for home, which lurks in all of us. A magnificent debut.”—Laila Lalami, author of The Moor’s Account

“There’s just no way to overstate this: A Lucky Man is a stunning debut. Richer than most novels, this collection calls a whole world into being, and the names and fates of these people will follow you into your life and never leave. Ambitious themes arc across the entire book—troubled masculinity, family in all its broken forms—but on a lower frequency these are love stories, intimately told. And they could come from no other than Jamel Brinkley, so there’s the pleasure of that encounter too, of hearing a new voice for the first time, and taking a deep plunge into the allegory of an artist’s soul.”—Charles D’Ambrosio

“Jamel Brinkley’s A Lucky Man captures so perfectly the myriad ways in which we struggle daily not only for connection but to be heard and understood. At once covert and exuberant, ferocious and tender, heartbreaking and hilarious, these are the stories we always needed. A marvelous debut, glowing with life, and a major new voice in American fiction.”—Paul Yoon

“This is the rare debut that introduces not a promising talent but a major writer, fully formed. The psychological penetration of these stories astonishes me, as do the grace and emotional scope of their sentences. Jamel Brinkley is brilliant, the real thing, a revelation.”—Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You

“I loved this book. From sentence to sentence, these stories are beautifully written, and they are wonderfully moving and smart about the connections—firm, broken, or mended—between siblings, and parents and their children, and couples who profess to love each other. Jamel Brinkley writes like an angel, but he also knows how low human beings can sometimes go, despite their own best intentions. How does luck, or its absence, visit our lives? Read these stories and find out.”—Charles Baxter

“There’s true magic in Jamel Brinkley’s stories. He finds the subtle and humane lurking within the drama of our lives. Brinkley writes with great insight and honesty about people you’ll recognize, flawed but still worthwhile. By using all his formidable talents, he’s shown us a vision of ourselves.”—Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling