cover image Witness


Jamel Brinkley. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-0-374-60703-6

In his dazzling sophomore collection, Brinkley (A Lucky Man) digs into the promises and dangers of intimacy and the costs of speaking up or staying silent. In the title story, a Black woman named Bernice, who is suffering from an unknown illness, advises her brother “when it... comes to those white doctors... always, always, exaggerate the pain.” In “Comfort,” Kelvin selflessly cares for Simone, a woman whose life has been derailed by her brother’s killing by police officers years earlier. “Bartow Station” centers on a young man who is unwilling to get help to deal with a past tragedy and is warned by the woman he’s dating that “one day it will all come out as a violence, like water spewing forth from a hose.” Elsewhere, a lonely woman imagines a deeper connection with a food delivery person, and a young father tries to justify relocating his aging father to assisted living. Throughout, Brinkley crafts unforgettable portraits, humming with barely restrained tension, of Black men and women exploring what it means to be part of families and communities that are awash in hope and disappointment alike. These intimate vignettes have the power to move readers. (Aug.)