cover image They Tell Me of a Home

They Tell Me of a Home

Daniel Omotosho Black, . . St. Martin's, $24.95 (335pp) ISBN 978-0-312-34187-9

In Black's thoughtful debut about return to and reconciliation with one's roots, Tommy Lee "T.L." Tyson comes home to rural Swamp Creek, Ark., after a 10-year absence. Having fled a life of manual labor and an unloving family for academia, T.L., now with a Ph.D. in black studies, returns seeking "familial clarity" after years of silence. Even stronger than his need to come to terms with his estranged family—including his tyrannical father, Cleatis; remote mother, Marion; and older brother, Willie James—is his desire to reconnect with his adored younger "Sister," Cynthia Jane. But he arrives home to find Sister dead and buried in the backyard, and no one will tell him how she died. Sister's death isn't the only family secret T.L. will unravel: he also visits his beloved, ailing teacher and mentor, Carolyn Swinton. They're reunited just before she dies, and upon her passing he discovers that he is her biological son. T.L. also finally breaks Willie James's silence and learns the shocking story of Sister's death. Though T.L.'s intellectual sermonizing about identity and overcoming self-hatred brings a self-conscious layer to the novel, Black elevates his promising debut with an ear for dialogue and a specific sense of Southern place. Agent, Tony Clark . (Oct.)