“Children of the Good Book”
by J.M. Holmes
from the May 17, 2021 issue of The New Yorker
J.M. Holmes is a completely new author for me. I don’t recall coming across his work before at all, though I see he published a book with Little, Brown in 2018 called How Are You Going to Save Yourself. Has anyone reading this read it? I’d love to know how it is!
Here we have his debut New Yorker fiction, “Children of the Good Book.” I have read the (very good) author interview with Deborah Treisman, so I am intrigued. There Holmes talks about Black masculinity.
And Black boys, we tend to grow up a whole lot faster, since there is still a not-so-subtle undercurrent of fear surrounding our bodies and our personhood in this country—especially if we happen to be as big, physically, as my family tends to be. And then, when we’re all together, we become even more of a target for that bullshit. I remember getting thrown out of a mall when I was thirteen or fourteen, ’cause security said we were intimidating paying customers.
In the interview, if I’m reading it correctly, Holmes’ first book was criticized as being “a glorification of misogyny” or “damaging to Black men.” He says that in writing this story he was very careful in how he portrayed any violence, to the point it seems he may have been trying not to go there. But, as he says, “once I pushed [Bull and Isaac’s] altercation past a certain point, I resigned myself to the fact that anything less than violence wouldn’t be an honest exploration of the pain and fear that both of those men were harboring, and of the overwhelming shame that Bulls feels.”
I have been pretty busy lately, so I’m behind here and have not read the story, but this sounds thoughtful and provocative. I intend to read it soon. In the meantime, please share your thoughts below. I hope we all really like it — because why hope otherwise — but if you didn’t also feel free to let us know why.