cover image Post-Traumatic


Chantal V. Johnson. Little, Brown, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-316-26423-5

Johnson explores in her brutally funny and poignant debut a Black Latinx woman’s childhood trauma and daily struggles. Vivian is a 30-something state-appointed attorney in a public psychiatric hospital, advocating for the rights of patients. Among the cases she’s working on is Melissa’s, a teenager recently transferred to the adult unit who pulls a knife on hospital staff. Vivian spends her free time smoking weed with her best friend, Jane, in an effort to cope with the painful elements of her life outside work, such as phone calls with her drunk older brother, Michael, who dances around the sexual abuse inflicted upon them as children by their mother’s boyfriends. She also nurses an eating disorder and goes on many fruitless dates in search of the perfect man. Dark humor is another coping mechanism for Vivian, which Johnson deploys with tremendous skill, as Vivian’s only-between-friends joke about Brown University being a “great place to go if you were abused” leads to she and Jane reflecting on their feelings about the younger generation’s embrace of “lefty-politics stuff,” which they wish had been around when they were coming up. After a tense reunion with Michael and their Puerto Rican mother, Vivian starts to unravel as she considers cutting herself off from her family. The pressures build as she botches Melissa’s case, gets dumped, and has a big fight with Jane. Throughout, Vivian’s confrontational interactions feel achingly true to life. This is revelatory and powerful. Agent: Mariah Stovall. Writers House. (Apr.)