cover image Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta

Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta

James Hannaham. Little, Brown, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-316-28527-8

PEN/Faulkner award winner Hannaham (Delicious Foods) returns with a timely if sometimes frustrating depiction of life on the edges of America’s prison-industrial complex. Carlotta Mercedes comes home to Brooklyn after serving more than 20 years in prison for armed robbery. Carlotta, a Black and Colombian trans woman who was abused in prison, is a live wire, by turns self-pitying, angry, thoughtful, and raunchily funny. Carlotta’s series of antic encounters with family members, her parole officer, and old friends from the neighborhood doesn’t amount to much of a story, but it gives plenty of opportunities for Carlotta to riff and grouse. Late in the book, after she’s robbed of $500 she’d tucked in her underwear next to what she calls her Señora Problema, Carlotta imagines the thief trying to spend the money at a department store: “I’m sorry, Sir, this money reeks a pussy. Bloomingdale policy be that we don’t assept no kinda pussystank moneys.” She has plenty of wit and verve, and readers are sure to cheer on Carlotta’s doomed efforts to stay clean and out of trouble, but, even so, the underplotted chronicle tends to lag. It’s fun for a while, but it’s not the author’s best. Agent: Doug Stewart, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Aug.)