Award-winning author Trebor Healey writes: This story collection offers profound meditations on desire and longing and the courage required of each of us to bring forth what is in us. James pulls out all the stops in this stunning collection, examining with an unflinching moral vision issues of not only sexuality and gender, but religion and community, race, violence, HIV/AIDS, intergenerational sex/eroticism, class and the life and death struggle at the center of every human heart.
In a world increasingly filled with unchallenging, feel-good fiction and film, James reminds us that being alive is to be in the heat of battle—a battle we are often losing. For James, survivors are those who are paying attention, looking at the struggle with a clear eye and an open heart. They are the heroes who—if they survive when the smoke clears—have a worthwhile story to bring back to us.
G. Winston James is not afraid to question the self-destructiveness of one’s sexuality or the consolation found in religious communities, even when they are far from perfect. This is the most refreshing gay fiction I’ve read in years.
The poetry of “The Space Between” is unrivaled in any erotica I’ve read to date, impressive in its insight and language. Through precise imagery, masterfully concise narrative, suspense and moral ambiguity, James establishes the skewed intimacy that sheds a devastatingly uncomfortable light upon pedophilia, rape and sexual exploitation. I’ve never read a story of this type that left me feeling like I suddenly knew what it was like to be such a victim. Profound.
“Storm,” reminiscent of Faulkner, is a tour de force of poetic family narrative: surreal, succinct and heart-breakingly tragic.
“Church” is so beautifully affirming a human story in its examination of one’s religious upbringing, moving beyond the usual focus on bigotry and schism to discover the underlying power and consolation of one’s spiritual community of origin.
“Rahen” examines the complexities of a gay bashing—from the implicit approval underlying even the most severe condemnation of the perpetrators to the self-preserving betrayals among the terrified gay kids and the urge to silence even among the most just authority figures. In “Rahen,” the best gay-bashing story I’ve ever read, James raises the moral stakes to the level of Greek tragedy.
“The Embrace” presents all the excitement, anxiety, promise and dread of allowing yourself to take a chance and fall or jump into a romance that will either liberate or destroy you. A classic story of the only way to find some things out is to put aside one’s fear, trust one’s heart and go for it.
Treading on territory many writers today avoid like the plague, James is fearless in his exposure of men on the ‘down-low’ and the dangerously skewed paranoia around child sexuality and eroticism. So, you want to know what’s really going on? Read G. Winston James.
A book full of ideas, James re-examines and sheds light upon issues that are far too often glossed over—for instance, the paradox of what we desire; the eroticism of being a child; the tenderness inside violence; the sexual intimacy of siblings; the madness of the human heart.
James explores in vivid, raw, disturbing detail the gritty realities of gay black life. These are stories that need to be heard, and that shockingly even 40 years into the gay movement are still being silenced, ignored or overlooked. I’ve been waiting for someone like James to tell me these essential stories of gay life.
James presents moral truths and their ambiguity, which makes their exploration so vital. Raising all kinds of questions, I don’t want to hear. Oh, but I do, we do.
The big issues in a queer life are still religion, race, class, courage and insight—all the parts that the inane, superficial and consumerist media more or less ignore. James’ stories are not stories of victims, but rather of individuals grappling with violence, oppression, negligence and their own courage to be who they are at whatever the cost. James’ voice is a mature voice, a voice too little heard in gay fiction these days, or in fiction generally, a genre that has grown so tepid in the past few decades that it borders on irrelevant. With these stories, James breathes new life into American fiction. Recommending his work to readers is too weak a statement—rather I implore readers: you need to hear this man’s voice. You’ll walk away a larger human being—and that, my friends, is the time-honored point of literature. James is the real thing and then some.
Trebor Healey is the Ferro-Grumley and Violet Quill award-winning author of the novel Through It Came Bright Colors, as well as the short story collection, A Perfect Scar and Other Stories.