Since I Laid My Burden Down

Brontez Purnell. Feminist, $17.95 trade paper (152p) ISBN 978-1-55861-431-4
Performance artist Purnell beautifully captures a personality through introspection and memory in this slim novel. The thin plot centers on DeShawn, a gay black man approaching middle age, returning to small-town Alabama after his uncle’s death. He moves back in with his mother, a powerful and demanding Baptist preacher with a shrinking congregation. DeShawn’s daily encounters send him down nostalgic rabbit holes about the men he has lost through death or other circumstances. He remembers his first lovers, the neighborhood boy who molested him, his stepfather’s rages, and other experiences of his deeply constrained Southern upbringing in the 1980s. After fleeing to California at 18, DeShawn falls into an aimless string of sexual encounters and a counterculture lifestyle. While these vignettes do not build up to a coherent narrative, they are carefully drawn, occasionally very funny, and frequently affecting. The even-keeled, almost deadpan way Purnell lays out these tragedies, failures, and losses and the casually explicit tone offer a compelling portrait of a particular disaffected kind of gay youth caught between religion, culture, and desire. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/17/2017
Release date: 06/01/2017
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 208 pages - 978-1-55861-432-1
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