Black Caucus American Library Association Literary Awards

Bocas Logo First presented at the Second National Conference of African American Librarians in 1994, the BCALA Literary Awards acknowledge outstanding works of fiction and nonfiction for adult audiences by African American authors.

Monetary awards are presented in the following categories, First Novelist, Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry. Honor Book citations are also awarded in fiction and nonfiction without any accompanying monetary remuneration.

The BCALA also host an annual conference, the National Conference of African American Librarians.


12 Books Honored in 2019

Winner First Novelist

They Come in All Colors
by Malcolm Hansen

Publication Date:
List Price: $26.00
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Fiction
Page Count: 336
ISBN13: 9781501172328
Imprint: Atria Books
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Parent Company: CBS Corporation

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Book Description: 
It’s 1969 when fifteen-year-old Huey Fairchild begins his first day at Claremont Prep, one of New York City’s most prestigious boys’ schools. His mother had uprooted her family from their small hometown of Akersburg, Georgia a few years earlier, leaving behind Huey’s white father and the racial unrest that ran deeper than the Chattahoochee River. But forgetting his past is easier said than done. At Claremont, where the only other non-white person is the janitor, Huey quickly realizes that racism can lurk beneath even the nicest school uniform. And after a quick slip of his temper, Huey finds himself on academic probation and facing legal charges. With his promising academic career in limbo, Huey begins examining his current predicament at Claremont through the lens of his childhood memories of growing up in Akersburg during the Civil Rights Movement.

Winner Fiction

An American Marriage: A Novel
by Tayari Jones

Publication Date:
List Price: $26.95
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Fiction
Page Count: 320
ISBN13: 9781616208776
Imprint: Algonquin Books
Publisher: Workman Publishing Co., Inc.
Parent Company: Workman Publishing Co., Inc.

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Book Description: 

Read Tayari’s, “Notes on “Quotes” from An American Marriage


An American Marriage is the newest Oprah’s Book Club selection!
Thank you, Oprah, for extending your hand to me and my new novel, An American Marriage. I am honored to join your book club and connect hearts and minds by raising our voices and telling our stories.”
Love,
Tayari

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward—with hope and pain—into the future.





Honor Book Fiction

Praise Song for the Butterflies
by Bernice L. McFadden

Publication Date:
List Price: $27.95
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Fiction
Page Count: 224
ISBN13: 9781617755750
Imprint: Akashic Books
Publisher: Akashic Books
Parent Company: Akashic Books

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Read a Description of Praise Song for the Butterflies


Book Description: 

Praise Song for the Butterflies addresses “Trokosi,” the practice of sending girls to shrines as slaves to serve priests in order to protect their family from the gods’ anger. Praise Song is also a November 2018 selection for AALBC’s online book club.

Adebe is unrelenting — a fiery protagonist who sparks in every scene. Bernice L. McFadden has created yet another compelling story, this time about hope and freedom. —Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of Here Comes the Sun.

"McFadden works a kind of miracle—not only do her characters retain their appealing humanity; their story eclipses the bonds of history to offer continuous surprises…Beautiful and evocative." —Jesmyn Ward

Abebe Tsikata lives a comfortable, happy life in Ghana as the privileged nine-year-old daughter of a government employee and stay-at-home mother. But when the Tsikatas’ idyllic lifestyle takes a turn for the worse, Abebe’s father, following his mother’s advice, places her in a religious shrine, hoping that the sacrifice of his daughter will serve as religious atonement for the crimes of his ancestors.

Unspeakable acts befall Abebe for the fifteen years she is enslaved within the shrine. When she is finally rescued, broken and battered, she must struggle to overcome her past, endure the revelation of family secrets, and learn to trust and love again.In the tradition of Chris Cleave’s Little Bee, Praise Song for the Butterflies is a contemporary story that offers an educational, eye-opening account of the practice of ritual servitude in West Africa. Spanning decades and two continents, Praise Song for the Butterflies will break and heal your heart.





Honor Book Fiction

The Vain Conversation
by Anthony Grooms

Publication Date:
List Price: $27.99
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Nonfiction
Page Count: 256
ISBN13: 9781611178821
Imprint: University of South Carolina Press
Publisher: University of South Carolina Press
Parent Company: University of South Carolina

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Book Description: 
Inspired by true events, The Vain Conversation reflects on the 1946 lynching of two black couples in Georgia from the perspectives of three characters—Bertrand Johnson, one of the victims; Noland Jacks, a presumed perpetrator; and Lonnie Henson, a witness to the murders as a ten-year-old boy. Lonnie’s inexplicable feelings of culpability drive him in a search for meaning that takes him around the world, and ultimately back to Georgia, where he must confront Jacks and his own demons, with the hopes that doing so will free him from the grip of the past.
In The Vain Conversation, Anthony Grooms seeks to advance the national dialogue on race relations. With complexity, satire, and sometimes levity, he explores what it means to redeem, as well as to be redeemed, on the issues of America’s race violence and speaks to the broader issues of oppression and violence everywhere.
A foreword is provided by American poet, painter, and novelist Clarence Major. An afterward is written by T. Geronimo Johnson, the bestselling author of Welcome to Braggsville and Hold It ’Til It Hurts.



Winner Nonfiction

The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke
by Jeffrey C. Stewart

Publication Date:
List Price: $39.95
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Nonfiction
Page Count: 944
ISBN13: 9780195089578
Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Parent Company: University of Oxford

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Book Description: 

Here Jeffrey C. Stewart is interviewed by E. Ethelbert Miller’s radio program, On The Margin. This interview was recorded, Thursday, February 1, 2018 on WPFW 89.3 FM in Washington, DC

Alain Locke a tiny, fastidiously dressed man emerged from Black Philadelphia around the turn of the century to mentor a generation of young artists including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jacob Lawrence and call them the New Negro — the creative African Americans whose art, literature, music, and drama would inspire Black people to greatness.”

In The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, Jeffrey C. Stewart offers the definitive biography of the father of the Harlem Renaissance, based on the extant primary sources of his life and on interviews with those who knew him personally. He narrates the education of Locke, including his becoming the first African American Rhodes Scholar and earning a PhD in philosophy at Harvard University, and his long career as a professor at Howard University. Locke also received a cosmopolitan, aesthetic education through his travels in continental Europe, where he came to appreciate the beauty of art and experienced a freedom unknown to him in the United States. And yet he became most closely associated with the flowering of Black culture in Jazz Age America and his promotion of the literary and artistic work of African Americans as the quintessential creations of American modernism. In the process he looked to Africa to find the proud and beautiful roots of the race. Shifting the discussion of race from politics and economics to the arts, he helped establish the idea that Black urban communities could be crucibles of creativity.

Stewart explores both Locke’s professional and private life, including his relationships with his mother, his friends, and his white patrons, as well as his lifelong search for love as a gay man. Stewart’s thought-provoking biography recreates the worlds of this illustrious, enigmatic man who, in promoting the cultural heritage of Black people, became — in the process — a New Negro himself.

Alain Locke photo

Locke represents a biographical challenge of unusual difficulty. Superbly educated, dazzlingly intelligent, psychologically complicated, and a cultural analyst and visionary whose books and essays helped to shape our understanding of race and modern American culture, Locke could also be petty and vindictive, manipulative and cruel. Also stamping his identity was his brave commitment to living fully as a gay man, despite its various dangers. Jeffrey Stewart, rising superbly to this challenge, has given us one of the finest literary biographies to appear in recent years.”Arnold Rampersad, Stanford University



Honor Book Nonfiction

Becoming
by Michelle Obama


Publication Date:
List Price: $32.50
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Nonfiction
Page Count: 400
ISBN13: 9781524763138
Imprint: Crown
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC

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Book Description: 

An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States



In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African-American to serve in that role--she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it--in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations--and whose story inspires us to do the same.





Honor Book Nonfiction

Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry
by Imani Perry

Publication Date:
List Price: $26.95
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Fiction
Page Count: 256
ISBN13: 9780807064498
Imprint: Beacon Press
Publisher: Beacon Press
Parent Company: Unitarian Universalist Association

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Book Description: 
A revealing portrait of one of the most gifted and charismatic, yet least understood, Black artists and intellectuals of the twentieth century.

Lorraine Hansberry, who died at thirty-four, was by all accounts a force of nature. Although best-known for her work A Raisin in the Sun, her short life was full of extraordinary experiences and achievements, and she had an unflinching commitment to social justice, which brought her under FBI surveillance when she was barely in her twenties. While her close friends and contemporaries, like James Baldwin and Nina Simone, have been rightly celebrated, her story has been diminished and relegated to one work—until now. In 2018, Hansberry will get the recognition she deserves with the PBS American Masters documentary “Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart” and Imani Perry’s multi-dimensional, illuminating biography, Looking for Lorraine.

After the success of A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry used her prominence in myriad ways: challenging President Kennedy and his brother to take bolder stances on Civil Rights, supporting African anti-colonial leaders, and confronting the romantic racism of the Beat poets and Village hipsters. Though she married a man, she identified as lesbian and, risking censure and the prospect of being outed, joined one of the nation’s first lesbian organizations. Hansberry associated with many activists, writers, and musicians, including Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Du Bois, among others. Looking for Lorraine is a powerful insight into Hansberry’s extraordinary life—a life that was tragically cut far too short.

Honor Book Nonfiction

The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism
by Howard Bryant

Publication Date:
List Price: $26.95
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Nonfiction
Page Count: 312
ISBN13: 9780807026991
Imprint: Beacon Press
Publisher: Beacon Press
Parent Company: Unitarian Universalist Association

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Book Description: 
Following in the footsteps of Robeson, Ali, Robinson and others, today’s Black athletes re-engage with social issues and the meaning of American patriotism

For most of the twentieth century, "No News on the Sports Page" governed how sports were played and perceived in America. The ballfield was a sanctuary from real-world problems. Today, that is a naive notion.

The reasons are complex. But among them, post 9/11, sports arenas transformed into staging grounds for American patriotism and pride. As America dealt with terrorism at home, hero-worship of law enforcement took center stage. Police officers threw out first pitches; soldiers’ surprise homecomings became a staple at half time; and teams wore camouflage jerseys to honor those who served. Any critique of police or military authority looked unpatriotic, even when the authority deserved criticism.

This paradigm shift activated a long-dormant force not seen in several decades: the black athlete as a figure of resistance. In The Heritage, sports journalist Howard Bryant observes how the tradition of neutrality on the pitch has given way to a new generation of activist-athletes. It is the story of the rise, fall, and return of "athlevists" who refuse to "shut up and play." It is a heritage built by the superstardom and radical politics of Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos in the 1960s; undermined by apolitical, corporation-friendly "transcenders of race" O.J. Simpson, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods, in the following decades; and reclaimed today by the likes of LeBron James, Colin Kaepernick, and Carmelo Anthony in the wake of Ferguson and Freddie Gray. Revealing and incisive, Bryant deftly shows how sports is colliding with political culture, and how athletes, teams and leagues are melding the two.

Honor Book Nonfiction

Black Fortunes: The Story of the First Six African Americans Who Escaped Slavery and Became Millionaires
by Shomari Wills

Publication Date:
List Price: $26.99
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Nonfiction
Page Count: 320
ISBN13: 9780062437594
Imprint: Amistad
Publisher: HarperCollins
Parent Company: News Corporation

Read a Description of Black Fortunes: The Story of the First Six African Americans Who Escaped Slavery and Became Millionaires


Book Description: 

The astonishing untold history of America’s first black millionaires—former slaves who endured incredible challenges to amass and maintain their wealth for a century, from the Jacksonian period to the Roaring Twenties—self-made entrepreneurs whose unknown success mirrored that of American business heroes such as Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, and Thomas Edison.

While Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Michael Jordan, and Will Smith are among the estimated 35,000 black millionaires in the nation today, these famous celebrities were not the first blacks to reach the storied one percent. Between the years of 1830 and 1927, as the last generation of blacks born into slavery was reaching maturity, a small group of smart, tenacious, and daring men and women broke new ground to attain the highest levels of financial success.

Black Fortunes is an intriguing look at these remarkable individuals, including Napoleon Bonaparte Drew—author Shomari Wills’ great-great-great-grandfather—the first black man in Powhatan County (contemporary Richmond) to own property in post-Civil War Virginia. His achievements were matched by five other unknown black entrepreneurs including:

  • Mary Ellen Pleasant, who used her Gold Rush wealth to further the cause of abolitionist John Brown;
  • Robert Reed Church, who became the largest landowner in Tennessee;
  • Hannah Elias, the mistress of a New York City millionaire, who used the land her lover gave her to build an empire in Harlem;
  • Orphan and self-taught chemist Annie Turnbo-Malone, who developed the first national brand of hair care products;
  • Madam C. J Walker, Turnbo-Malone’s employee who would earn the nickname America’s “first female black millionaire;”;
  • Mississippi school teacher O. W. Gurley, who developed a piece of Tulsa, Oklahoma, into a town for wealthy black professionals and craftsmen that would become known as “the Black Wall Street.”

A fresh, little-known chapter in the nation’s story—A blend of Hidden Figures, Titan, and The Tycoons—Black Fortunes illuminates the birth of the black business titan and the emergence of the black marketplace in America as never before.





Winner Poetry

Door of No Return
by Neal Hall

Publication Date:
List Price: $10.00
Format: Paperback
Classification: Poetry
ISBN13: 9780989379359
Imprint: To Be Determined
Publisher: To Be Determined
Parent Company: To Be Determined

Read a Description of Door of No Return


Book Description: 

“Absolutely amazing! I have read most of Neal Halls works; have had the privilege of commenting and critiquing many pieces as he wrote them. But with Door of No Return, Doc Man, as I fondly refer to Neal, has exceeded himself! His perception of the human condition, in particular the plight of the white man’s creation, the Nigger’, as described in these poems, is second to none

I had the privilege of first meeting Neal Hall in Nairobi, Kenya, at the Storymoja Festival in 2013. He read from his book, Nigger For Life, a collection of poems that challenged, in the most explicit and uncompromising of ways all who listened to him to think or re-think their perceptions of race, identity, acceptance and survival. Already there, Neal’s work stood out.

Because his poetry does not make you comfortable, does not reinforce the generically ‘acceptable’ and accepted state of affairs. It instead boldly and candidly questions, in the face of Neal’s real life experiences as a black man, the status quo — raw and painfully blatant. You are forced to open your mind to the fact, not ‘the possibility,’ that what seems to be may not be as it seems.

Blatantly blunt, painfully honest and, as always, breathtakingly unapologetic. Neal Hall’s language is simple but intense, not sparing his readers, not compromising his delivery for the sake of a pretentious feel-good factor. Neal Hall is not on a quest for apologies, empathy, sympathy — and least of all, pity. Brutally descriptive, he writes simply to tell it as it is! No holes barred.

why is a black man’s greatness greatly measured in how much shit he can peacefully endure, then forgive the white man for it.’ —Neal Hall

To call Neal Hall brave, even courageous, would be to undermine the power of his work. Because he is not out to save, absolve or convert the world. His work simply unashamedly and uncompromisingly calls a spade a spade!

There is nowhere to hide, nowhere to conceal ones guilty adherence to, and acceptance of the status quo of injustices and atrocities committed past and present. There is no no pretending that you have no part in it. Because at every twist and turn Neal Hall gets you, exposes you, and confronts you with countless revelations of the ways in which we fan the flame that burns us alive.

There is no respite, no relief in the reading. It is as it is. Up front and in your face, forcing you to reflect and question. So know that you cannot read Neal Hall’s work and not be affected by it.

To read Neal Hall is — whether you like it or not, to deal with it! And that is how it should be. I feel privileged and am honored to give testimony to the work of the brilliant poet that is Neal Hall. His work is an invaluable contribution to world contemporary poetry. Asante Neal!”
” —Dr. Auma Obama, Founder, Director Sauti Kuu Foundation, Nairobi Kenya



Honor Book Poetry

If God Invented Baseball: Poems
by E. Ethelbert Miller

Publication Date:
List Price: $14.99
Format: Paperback
Classification: Poetry
Page Count: 72
ISBN13: 9781947951006
Imprint: City Point Press
Publisher: City Point Press
Parent Company: Creative Management Partners, LLC

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Book Description: 

Here are poems that celebrate and interpret the game by one of America’s finest poets. They are for everyone who has experienced the magic released when three holy things come together: bat, ball, and glove.

“Ethelbert Miller is one of the most significant and influential poets of our time.”Gwendolyn Brooks

If God Invented Baseball is a complete game of baseball poems, a full nine innings pitched by a “master twirler,” whose complete arsenal includes fastballs, curves and change-ups, and the occasional knuckler, to keep readers swinging for the fences, his full artistry on display.

Ethelbert Miller’s work captures the enjoyment of the game from childhood to old age. Baseball fans will place this book next to their scorecards, peanuts and beer. Poetry readers will equally be delighted.

If God Invented Baseballis a book for the ballpark and the home.

“If William Blake could see the world in a grain of sand, then Ethelbert Miller can see the world in a baseball. This ebullient collection of baseball poems encompasses a dazzling array of human experience: childhood and aging, marriage and divorce, jazz and philosophy, segregation and liberation. There are the heroes Miller emulated on the ball fields of the South Bronx: Mantle, Mays, Clemente, Cepeda—but so much more we would never expect, like a first kiss commemorated by the trading of baseball gloves. Even Gandhi makes an appearance in the dugout, befitting a poem that makes the connection between bunting and non-violence. Funny, tender, wise and lyrical, these poems make the case that baseball was invented not by God or Abner Doubleday, but by a poet named Ethelbert Miller.”Martín Espada


Honor Book Poetry

Indecency
by Justin Phillip Reed

Publication Date:
List Price: $16.95
Format: Paperback
Classification: Poetry
Page Count: 112
ISBN13: 9781566895149
Imprint: Coffee House Press
Publisher: Coffee House Press
Parent Company: Coffee House Press

Read a Description of Indecency


Book Description: 

Winner of the 2018 National Book Award for Poetry
Finalist for the 2019 Kate Tufts Discovery Award
Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Gay Poetry
BCALA 2019 Honor Best Poetry Award winner
Library Journal, "Best Books 2018"


"Reed’s visceral and teasingly cerebral debut probes black identity, sexuality, and violence and is inseparably personal and political. He displays a searing sense of injustice about dehumanizing systems, and his speakers evoke the quotidian with formidable eloquence . . ." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"[Reed’s] poems take up the body in desire and violence, and they do so by thrusting the reader into a stark visceral encounter with their material." —The New York Times

"Raw, nervy, reverberant, densely packed language whose import simply can’t be reduced to easy explanation . . . One-of-a-kind brilliant." —Library Journal

"Indecency made me stand up and applaud." —The Millions

"Reed’s poems are formally inventive, especially when he works in concrete ways on the page. . . . The reader winds up in a new place without realizing they were being moved there." —The Rumpus

"A poignant, searing book." —Entertainment Weekly

"Rich with musical echoes and sonic ironies." —Vulture

"Reed’s wit and formal experimentation, quicksilver and luminous, shows the world as it is, while detailing how the very people that society most devalues, demeans, and seeks to destroy are its true visionaries." —The Adroit Journal

"Reed wrestles with finding the language to convey the pain of that double oppression and still manages to create terrible beauty." —Signature

"Reed’s love of language is ever-present in his joyful play with words throughout his poetry." —The Root

"In his debut poetry collection, Indecency, [Reed] wrestles with self-perception, intimacy, and placement." —St. Louis Magazine

"An unflinching exploration of power, race, sexuality, gender, the personal and the political." —Vox

"Political and personal, tender, daring, and insightful―the author unpacks his intimacies, weaponizing poetry to take on masculinity, sexuality, exploitation, and the prison industrial complex and unmask all the failures of the structures into which society sorts us." —The Rumpus

"As we grapple with issues of equity and inclusion, insights that Reed invokes are essential. They expose a treacherous legacy, an inheritance we all must own." —The Manitou Messenger

"Within the containment of mostly invented forms, Justin Phillip Reed’s Indecency is the ’carnal weight’ I’ve longed for in poetry. It’s the guttural dream of utterance that strokes and pokes the body. Reed’s deft craft is so rare, so precise, and driven by language whose surface is texture like teeth, that it seems like freed speech into the ache of repressive histories, white gazes, and uninvited invasions. Violence in Reed’s hands is no longer a thing somewhere out there but is inside the heart, as close as any black desire. Indecency is the new duende. It is like no other book I’ve read; Reed is an extraordinary talent." —Dawn Lundy Martin

"In this gorgeous first collection, there is no separation of sound from the language it travels in, from the body that produces it, from the experience that evokes it. Justin Phillip Reed achieves an impressive unity of form and content, never obscuring meaning in its varied violences inside the poems’ luxuriant unfolding—the ’absent-present’ rich with tough phantoms and the fragile living, and underneath: an unwillingness to buckle under unwanted and unasked-for burdens. In conversation with Frank O’Hara and Dawn Lundy Martin, with Michael Brown and Ezell Ford, with Ralph Ellison and Harryette Mullen, with the named and unnamed populace who understand sufferance but also resilience, pain but also sweetness, Indecency is a refusal of pretense, a celebration of possibilities within human complexity—and the hard-earned freedom inextricable from the public and private histories from which it is wrought." —Khadijah Queen

"Don’t avert: Justin Phillip Reed demands we witness that who’s missing was taken, who fell was dropped, and who died was murdered. Witness, too, that who done it will claim everything but responsibility. That obscenity drives the poet to fracture language into the exquisite shrapnel of lyric paroxysms, leaves a ’body / . . . deboned of its irony.’ That indecency triggered these devastating poems. Fuck what they claim; here’s what Reed has seen." —Douglas Kearney

"It would be a mistake, in heeding Reed’s outrage and his sense of urgency (and heed it we should) to hurry past the beauty in these poems, of which there is plenty to be found: potent word play, intricate rhyme, and stray lines like ’a smeared sweet on his cheek in the parenthesis of a grin’ or ’the dense streets clapped into a quick-descended stillness.’" —Assignment

Praise for Justin Phillip Reed:

"More than their beauty, what the poems of A History of Flamboyance flaunt is their insistence, a restless and, finally, necessary intellectual rigor that demands as much from the reader as it will delight and trouble her. But don’t be tricked in thinking these are consequently too-stiffened poems, lacking blood. There’s blood moving in every line of Reed’s poems, and there’s nerve, which is only to say that here is also honest if sometimes painful feeling, vulnerability articulated with power. If these poems are confessions, then Reed’s many formal interventions mean to break up, down or apart, reveal and revise, perhaps, the performance of those confessions, an effort to expose their inner makings, motives, our histories, these ’constructed rituals’ of shame and desire. I’d say this fits a mind that seems at turns insatiable, wanting more of our world and of the poem; at other times more reserved, wanting less; but at all times is a mind nevertheless committed to the poem’s queerest possibility, evoking its many traditions just as it disrupts or rewrites them. So these poems teach me. Justin Phillip Reed is a productive new voice in contemporary poetry, ’rose up like a hard new fact, ’ and one that feels in every way as irrefutable." —Rickey Laurentiis

"To be re-born inside these poems of chasm is a rigor not quietly undertaken. Justin Phillip Reed undoes the sonnet’s deep organization with the violent abandon of a boy become object in the stink of rapture. A ripping of form occurs. A cataclysm of self. And what do we find in these body ruins? I, for one, hear the hunt of masculine desire beating through—familiar, a known place—calling like a rustling of trees in night’s black thought. These poems at once trouble this bringing forth and grieve the ’softness’ become ’satchel.’ Indeed, how do we ever re-gather ourselves? When I read these poems by Reed, I’m left energized, bereft, and altered. They will forever live in my imagination." —Dawn Lundy Martin