Publication Year: 2011
In Amina Gautier’s Brooklyn, some kids make it and some kids don’t, but not in simple ways or for stereotypical reasons. Gautier’s stories explore the lives of young African Americans who might all be classified as “at-risk,” yet who encounter different opportunities and dangers in their particular neighborhoods and schools and who see life through the lens of different family experiences.
Gautier’s focus is on quiet daily moments, even in extraordinary lives; her characters do not stand as emblems of a subculture but live and breathe as people. In “The Ease of Living,” the young teen Jason is sent down south to spend the summer with his grandfather after witnessing the double murder of his two best friends, and he is not happy about it. A season of sneaking into as many movies as possible on one ticket or dunking girls at the pool promises to turn into a summer of shower chairs and the smell of Ben-Gay in the unimaginably backwoods town of Tallahassee. In “Pan Is Dead,” two half-siblings watch as the heroin-addicted father of the older one works his way back into their mother’s life; in “Dance for Me,” a girl on scholarship at a posh Manhattan school teaches white girls to dance in the bathroom in order to be invited to a party.
As teenagers in complicated circumstances, each of Gautier’s characters is pushed in many directions. To succeed may entail unforgiveable compromises, and to follow their desires may lead to catastrophe. Yet within these stories they exist and can be seen as they are, in the moment of choosing.
Published by: University of Georgia Press
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The Ease of Living
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It was barely the summer—just the end of June—and already two teenaged boys had been killed. Jason was turning sixteen in another month, and his mother worried that he might not make it. A week after the double funeral, she cashed in all of the Series EE bonds she'd been saving since his birth and bought him a plane ticket to...
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A women's organization decided to adopt the girls in our school for the year, but we weren't supposed to feel lucky. We were selected not for our scholasticism or high test marks but because our school had the highest percentage of eighth grade girls dropping out to have babies. The organization selected us out of all the other junior...
Pan Is Dead
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Blue sent letters, begging letters, meant to soften a small space in our mother's heart. The letters were frequent, relentless, more punctual than bills. They slipped in with the gas and electric bills, the phone bill and the rent reminder, long number-ten envelopes mixed in with the short fat ones the credit card people sent. For...
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The teacher's clothes hang off her. She is what the girl's mother calls a "Skinny Minnie." Even the girl's sister dresses better. She gets her clothing from Lerner's, which has not yet become New York & Company. When the sister is away at work, the girl slides the magazines out from her sister's hiding place and stares at the models, especially...
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Our mother's voice—raised in anger—followed by the crash of something sharp, delicate, and expensive shattering against the wall that was ours on one side and our parents' on the other woke us up. Dressed in a black full-length slip with pink rollers in her hair, our mother stood tough by her side of the bed—tough despite the...
Dance for Me
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The girls on Lexington had it the worst. Hated maroon skirts the color of dried blood. Navy blazers complete with gaudy emblem. Goldenrod blouses with Peter Pan collars. And knee socks. Actually, knee socks weren't so bad. Knee socks served their purpose in the winter, keeping sturdy calves warm...
Girl of Wisdom
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Fifteen and too shy to do anything on her own, Melanie waits for Chandra to come down. Waits at the large, wide window—the thin curtains Bernice has hung do not cover the width of it—for just a glimpse of Chandra, because Bernice will not let her come over. Will never let her come over. And so she and Chandra must meet...
Some Other Kind of Happiness
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No one holds the syringe but me. My mother could if she weren't so squeamish about blood. There was a time when my cousin Tony could have learned to, but he came home to Brooklyn that summer a stranger. He'd been away all year at a boarding school in Connecticut none of us had ever seen. This left only Teddy, and even...
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Kim knew better than to ask for a favor while her mother's shows were on. Her mother sat on the love seat, positioned directly in front of the TV, with newspaper spread out across her lap. She was peeling potatoes to make french fries, routinely dropping peelings onto the newspaper without ever looking at her hands or the...
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Kiki didn't have anything smaller than a twenty on him at lunchtime. He'd pulled out a roll of twenties and fifties and told Stephen to meet him at the park when school let out. Stephen had never seen so much money on someone his own age. And even though he knew he was supposed to head straight home, he agreed to meet...
Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2011
Series Title: Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction