Friday, March 8, 2019

What The Story Prize Judges had to Say About Jamel Brinkley's A Lucky Man

Photo © Beowulf Sheehan
When the three judges for The Story Prize make their choices, they provide citations for the books. This year's judges were writer Jo Ann Beard, Washington Post book critic Ron Charles, and bookseller Veronica Santiago Liu. We include the citations in congratulatory letters we present to each finalist, along with their checks ($20,000 to the winner, $5,000 to the other two finalists). To protect the confidentiality of the judges' votes and the integrity of the process, we don't attribute citations to any particular judge.

"There is a novelistic weight to the complexity of the worlds Jamel Brinkley creates in each story in A Lucky Man. Whole stories can turn on a line—sometimes so subtle that its heft could nearly be missed—and in those lines, these sudden exposures of truth, the culmination of lies that one tells oneself to survive in the world are revealed. Even when you think you are just getting to the heart of some of these stories—while sitting on the bank of Quantico Creek, returning to the steps of Good Shepherd, or beating the shit out of a dog—you find, no, there’s more, and Jamel Brinkley is gonna go there and take us along, pools of lamplight and sun-sprinkled paths like coins lighting the way through the book. In each story, the stakes get so high, but Mr. Brinkley doesn’t shy away from meeting them, “peeling back” his characters’ histories, through “language to a hard core, like the spiked stones of peaches” the boys in “A Family” used to throw at stray dogs."

"I honestly can’t remember the last time I read a contemporary short story collection so full with the weight of our city lives that also so brazenly delivered."