If I Survive You
Author: Jonathan Escoffery
LONG-LISTED FOR THE 2022 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION, THE PEN/JEAN STEIN OPEN BOOK AWARD, THE PEN/BINGHAM PRIZE, THE 2023 CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN FICTION, AND THE 2023 ASPEN WORDS LITERARY PRIZE
“If I Survive You is a collection of connected short stories that reads like a novel, that reads like real life, that reads like fiction written at the highest level.” —Ann Patchett
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW’S 100 NOTABLE BOOKS OF 2022 • ONE OF TIME AND PEOPLE’S TOP TEN BOOKS OF 2022 • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF 2022 BY THE NEW YORKER, NPR, OPRAH DAILY, LOS ANGELES TIMES, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, APPLE, FRESH AIR’S MAUREEN CORRIGAN, THE BOSTON GLOBE, BUZZFEED, VOX, THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, BOOKLIST, ELECTRIC LITERATURE, LIBRARY JOURNAL, KIRKUS, AND DEBUTIFUL
A major debut, blazing with style and heart, that follows a Jamaican family striving for more in Miami, and introduces a generational storyteller.
In the 1970s, Topper and Sanya flee to Miami as political violence consumes their native Kingston. But America, as the couple and their two children learn, is far from the promised land. Excluded from society as Black immigrants, the family pushes on through Hurricane Andrew and later the 2008 recession, living in a house so cursed that the pet fish launches itself out of its own tank rather than stay. But even as things fall apart, the family remains motivated, often to its own detriment, by what the younger son, Trelawny, calls “the exquisite, racking compulsion to survive.”
Masterfully constructed with heart and humor, the linked stories in Jonathan Escoffery’s If I Survive You center on Trelawny as he struggles to carve out a place for himself amid financial disaster, racism, and flat-out bad luck. After a fight with Topper, Trelawny claws his way out of homelessness through a series of odd, often hilarious jobs. Meanwhile, his brother, Delano, attempts a disastrous cash grab to get his kids back, and his cousin Cukie looks for a father who doesn’t want to be found. As each character searches for a foothold, they never forget the profound danger of climbing without a safety net.
Pulsing with vibrant lyricism and inimitable style, sly commentary and contagious laughter, Escoffery’s debut unravels what it means to be in between homes and cultures in a world at the mercy of capitalism and whiteness. With If I Survive You, Escoffery announces himself as a prodigious storyteller in a class of his own, a chronicler of American life at its most gruesome and hopeful.