cover image Brother and the Dancer

Brother and the Dancer

Keenan Norris. Heyday, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-1-59714-244-1

Norris’s first novel is extraordinarily promising and wildly uneven. He follows two characters, Touissant and Erycha, from childhood until they begin college. They live in different Highland, Calif., neighborhoods and tell different stories of black experience. Touissant is the child of a university professor and his journey to articulate to himself who he is as a black man is marked by a deep, internal, philosophical conversation; Norris’s depiction of how joining a football team or choosing a college are major decisions for Touissant are fascinating and successful. Erycha, the “dancer” of the title, is also processing her experiences to create an identity, but her story is missing the inner illumination Norris brings to Touissant, and, by comparison, she feels too familiar. In the moments of their meeting, which bookend the novel, both Erycha and Touissant reach a peak of inauthenticity; they lie to each other, and it’s not much clearer by the end why they lied than it was in the beginning. Read the book for Touissant’s inner monologues, and keep an eye out for Norris’s next novel; if this book is any indication, he’s developing a major talent. (Nov.)