Few writers can inhabit multiple characters with equal intensity and vivacity, and most who can are, of course, playwrights or screenwriters...Sidik Fofana’s debut collection reveals him to have this rare gift...The collection introduces us to eight black residents of the Banneker Terrace apartments in Harlem...As the poem that introduces the collection asks, 'Everybody got a story, everybody got a tale / Question is: Is it despair or prevail?'...Fofana makes us feel viscerally the weight of life’s injustice...He doesn’t idealize or airbrush his characters, yet he enables us to know their wit, ingenuity, joy, and resilience.
... outstanding ... The brilliance of this debut, however, is that Fofana doesn’t let anyone go unseen ... masterfully paints a portrait of the people most impacted by gentrification ... Fofana brings his characters to life through their idiosyncratic speech patterns. Auxiliary verbs are dropped, words are misspelled, prepositions are jostled, all to create a sense of vernacular authenticity...Grammar is an instrument that Fofana plays by ear, to much success.
Fofana’s debut is impressive — his characters exude life and the different voices stay with the reader long after the book has been shelved ... Fofana’s characters are brutally human, and sometimes I worry for them, as I worry for the very real people who are facing the realities of rising rent, stagnant incomes, and impossible-to-attain mortgages ... does not shy away from complexity. The people in these stories are inconsistent, the way actual people are inconsistent, justifying their own mistakes and petty retaliations to themselves. I found myself wanting to argue with the characters, a sign of how real they became to me. Like real living people, everyone here exists in the gray of morality, ethics, and lawfulness ... While the tenants of Banneker haven’t faced the current post-Obama world, their struggles still feel relevant. The ups and downs of the economy and the pandemic have forced a lot of people to reexamine their lives. Many folks have had to move home, many have had to downgrade, and many are worrying about what will finally push them into crime or welfare ... Sidik Fofana captures eight unique voices in eight unique predicaments. There is no one story of gentrification, there are individual people with individual struggles. Stories brings those people, and their very real hustles and struggles, to life ... Still — Fofana’s characters are better than most of us at getting back up again.