cover image We Are a Haunting

We Are a Haunting

Tyriek White. Astra House, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-66260-171-2

White follows a Brooklyn family across three generations in his poignant and poetic debut. Audrey, the grandmother, moves from North Carolina to Brooklyn, where she lives in the same apartment for 40 years before her rent is jacked up and she’s evicted in the late 2000s, a year after the death of her daughter, Key, from cancer. Key’s 14-year-old son, Colly, searches for ways to move on with a fractured family after his mother’s death. Colly grieves not only his mother but also his neighborhood of East New York as it’s broken apart by gentrification. In flashbacks set in the late 1980s, Key discovers an ability to see the dead, including people who were taken from Africa and enslaved in the American South. Now, Key becomes a transient spirit, watching over Colly as he comes of age in a lonely apartment, finding hope with an internship at MoMA and despair after seeing another kid get shot in his neighborhood. Each character is acutely aware of the weight of their forebears, which White uses to effectively tell a story that is both intimate and sweeping: “The problem was that the ghosts stayed with me. Each one left a shadow under my eye,” Key laments. White works wonders with this inspired story of grief and the struggle for hope. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Apr.)