In the opening scene of How Are You Going to Save Yourself, a group of young men are sitting around smoking pot, boasting about their sexual exploits. The dialogue is quick and punchy. The youths are all of-color, a cause for humor and preoccupation and personal anguish. The setting is not the seaside Rhode Island of souvenir calendars, but the labyrinthine backstreets of Pawtucket, where their lives unfold with frenetic uncertainty.
How Are You Going to Save Yourself is a powerhouse debut by J.M. Holmes, and a sobering reminder of how underrepresented many local neighborhoods are. Holmes grew up in Rhode Island; East Siders will relish the local flavor, such as a promenade through Slater Park. Holmes has moved around in his adulthood, living and working in Iowa, California, Massachusetts, and (currently) Wisconsin, and his prose is packed with cultural references – from hip hop stars to Gandhi. Through his ensemble of friends, Holmes explores the connections between disparate, underserved communities across the country, using the Ocean State as his narrative anchor.
Holmes has already earned a host of awards and fellowships, and since the novel was released last August, HAYGTSY has wowed fellow authors and even The New York Times. For East Side readers, the novel is an intensive character study about that struggling world across the interstate.
WINTER READING LIST
Illuminate the long, cold nights with some books by Rhode Island authors.
The Deadly Kiss-Off
About a year ago, East Side science fiction writer Paul DiFilippo decided to try his hand at comic crime writing, in the tradition of Elmore Leonard. That novel, The Big Get-Even, introduced us to Glen and Stan, two con-men with oversized ambitions. The prolific author now provides us with an action-packed sequel, The Deadly Kiss-Off, about a dubious invention and the power-grab that follows.
House of Ashes
Is there really a curse on Buttersea Bluffs? Will the residents of this Cape Cod mansion really meet certain doom? And what can Cassandra Mitchell, the youngest of the family, do to unravel the mystery, especially in the wake of two strange visitors? House of Ashes is the suspenseful second novel by Loretta Marion, a successful Rhode Island copywriter.
Kissing the Shuttle
During the Industrial Revolution, textile workers would often suck thread through a needle’s eye. This practice was called “kissing the shuttle,” and it helped spread tuberculosis through Rhode Island slums, sending thousands to their deaths. Mary Ann Mayer’s “lyric history” explores the grim roots of Ocean State industry, as well as major advances in civic life. A decorated local poet, Mayer uses vivid imagery to recreate this dramatic period.
The Night Before Krampus
Christoph is just a kid living in small-town Rhode Island – until a pair of supernatural monsters show up in the dead of winter, promising revenge for an age-old offense. Peter Johnson had already published numerous books and won an NEA fellowship before writing The Night Before Krampus. The holidays may be over, but Johnson’s novel proves that it’s never too late for monstrous morality tales.