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Right by My Side

Foreword by Jamel Brinkley
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Move over, Holden Caulfield, and meet Marshall Field Finney, in the 30th anniversary edition of Right by My Side, by a celebrated chronicler of Black middle class life in the American Midwest
 
A Penguin Classic


With wit and realism, David Haynes presents a different kind of Holden Caulfield in fifteen-year-old Marshall Field Finney, an ordinary, sullen teenager who discovers storytelling as a way to ease his adolescent anger and family tensions. Living with his parents in “Washington Park,'' a housing development outside St. Louis, Missouri in the 1980s, his high-strung mother walks out on him and his father, a flawed yet strong man who manages the local landfill. Marshall's two best friends, one Black and one white, are his only allies, as they navigate school and family life together. Through these relationships, Haynes poses Marshall's universal questions about his place in his community and what’s next in his life. Ultimately, Marshall’s story proves that people take care of each other, families take care of others, and a boy finds his own resilience to become a young man.
 
"[Haynes] belongs to the old realist tradition that believes that everyday life, if truly rendered, is more than exciting enough."—Los Angeles Times Book Review


"Haynes offers engaging characters who tackle fundamental issues such as love, family and benevolence," Publishers Weekly
David Haynes grew up in St. Louis, and now lives in St. Paul. He has taught middle school and worked as a teacher-in-residence for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. He is the author of Heathens, Somebody Else's Mama, and Live at Five. He was selected by Granta magazine as one the best young American novelists in 1996. View titles by David Haynes
Big Sam is waiting for me in his orange chair.
“Your Aunt Lucille called.”
Oops. Before I can b.s. as to how calling her slipped my mind, how I’d decided not to call, how I didn’t get an answer, Sam says:
“I guess the old bitch caught wind on the family grapevine that we were looking for your mama.”
Lucille is Rose’s mother’s sister. She could smell family trouble across the continental divide, and the Central West End is a lot closer than that. There’s been bad blood between her and Sam ever since she floor-showed at the big wedding. I understand that names such as “heathen” and “dried up old heifer” were exchanged, and that Rose herself fainted dead away—organdy, orange blossoms, and all.
“Let’s get our stories straight,” Sam says. “I told her you were upset and confused and that everything is fine.”
“Sure thing,” I say, nodding, sealing the pact.
“You cover the phone. You know when to come get me.”
“Yes, sir.” More nodding.
He calls me a good boy and rubs me on the head before ushering a six pack to his room. I won’t see him again today.
*
About eleven the phone rings. I turn from Johnny Carson, and there Sam is. His eyes are bleary red and he is halfway into a rumpled pair of pajamas. He nods at the phone. I just look at it. It rings some more; Sam nods again.
“Hello,” I say.
“Marshall. Is that you, Marshall?”
Lying with my eyes, I shake my head at Big Sam. I say hello again.
“Please put your daddy on the phone. Please.”
“No, I think you have the wrong number.”
Big Sam crumples his fists in disappointment.
“Marshall.” Rose’s voice sounds distant and vague.
“That’s quite all right,” I say, and I hang up. I put a hand on Big Sam’s shoulder and walk him to bed. The phone rings again.
“Go on to bed. I’m sure it’s that same wrong number. Let it ring. She’ll give up sooner or later.”
"In Right by My Side, David Haynes crafts a story that is both humorous and heartbreaking. It is a moving coming-of-age and a complex portrait of an entire community all at once. Marshall Field Finney is the kind of charismatic, world-wary young narrator whose voice leaps off the page and grabs hold of your heart. How thrilling for a new generation of readers to get to know him."
—Angela Flournoy

"In Right by My Side David Haynes wrote a novel for the ages. The sentences and voice that make up Marshall, the book's young narrator, crackle with an energy that is both hilarious and timeless. Haynes's debut rivals our best and most important works of literature."
Rion Amilcar Scott, author of The World Doesn't Require You

About

Move over, Holden Caulfield, and meet Marshall Field Finney, in the 30th anniversary edition of Right by My Side, by a celebrated chronicler of Black middle class life in the American Midwest
 
A Penguin Classic


With wit and realism, David Haynes presents a different kind of Holden Caulfield in fifteen-year-old Marshall Field Finney, an ordinary, sullen teenager who discovers storytelling as a way to ease his adolescent anger and family tensions. Living with his parents in “Washington Park,'' a housing development outside St. Louis, Missouri in the 1980s, his high-strung mother walks out on him and his father, a flawed yet strong man who manages the local landfill. Marshall's two best friends, one Black and one white, are his only allies, as they navigate school and family life together. Through these relationships, Haynes poses Marshall's universal questions about his place in his community and what’s next in his life. Ultimately, Marshall’s story proves that people take care of each other, families take care of others, and a boy finds his own resilience to become a young man.
 
"[Haynes] belongs to the old realist tradition that believes that everyday life, if truly rendered, is more than exciting enough."—Los Angeles Times Book Review


"Haynes offers engaging characters who tackle fundamental issues such as love, family and benevolence," Publishers Weekly

Author

David Haynes grew up in St. Louis, and now lives in St. Paul. He has taught middle school and worked as a teacher-in-residence for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. He is the author of Heathens, Somebody Else's Mama, and Live at Five. He was selected by Granta magazine as one the best young American novelists in 1996. View titles by David Haynes

Excerpt

Big Sam is waiting for me in his orange chair.
“Your Aunt Lucille called.”
Oops. Before I can b.s. as to how calling her slipped my mind, how I’d decided not to call, how I didn’t get an answer, Sam says:
“I guess the old bitch caught wind on the family grapevine that we were looking for your mama.”
Lucille is Rose’s mother’s sister. She could smell family trouble across the continental divide, and the Central West End is a lot closer than that. There’s been bad blood between her and Sam ever since she floor-showed at the big wedding. I understand that names such as “heathen” and “dried up old heifer” were exchanged, and that Rose herself fainted dead away—organdy, orange blossoms, and all.
“Let’s get our stories straight,” Sam says. “I told her you were upset and confused and that everything is fine.”
“Sure thing,” I say, nodding, sealing the pact.
“You cover the phone. You know when to come get me.”
“Yes, sir.” More nodding.
He calls me a good boy and rubs me on the head before ushering a six pack to his room. I won’t see him again today.
*
About eleven the phone rings. I turn from Johnny Carson, and there Sam is. His eyes are bleary red and he is halfway into a rumpled pair of pajamas. He nods at the phone. I just look at it. It rings some more; Sam nods again.
“Hello,” I say.
“Marshall. Is that you, Marshall?”
Lying with my eyes, I shake my head at Big Sam. I say hello again.
“Please put your daddy on the phone. Please.”
“No, I think you have the wrong number.”
Big Sam crumples his fists in disappointment.
“Marshall.” Rose’s voice sounds distant and vague.
“That’s quite all right,” I say, and I hang up. I put a hand on Big Sam’s shoulder and walk him to bed. The phone rings again.
“Go on to bed. I’m sure it’s that same wrong number. Let it ring. She’ll give up sooner or later.”

Praise

"In Right by My Side, David Haynes crafts a story that is both humorous and heartbreaking. It is a moving coming-of-age and a complex portrait of an entire community all at once. Marshall Field Finney is the kind of charismatic, world-wary young narrator whose voice leaps off the page and grabs hold of your heart. How thrilling for a new generation of readers to get to know him."
—Angela Flournoy

"In Right by My Side David Haynes wrote a novel for the ages. The sentences and voice that make up Marshall, the book's young narrator, crackle with an energy that is both hilarious and timeless. Haynes's debut rivals our best and most important works of literature."
Rion Amilcar Scott, author of The World Doesn't Require You

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