‘Every Time They Call You [The N-Word]’ by Chris Stuck

I believe strongly that non-Black reviewers should not use the full slur word here because that word is not a part of our earned history and not ours to just use as we please. (As Helen Oyeyemi reminds us in one of my favorite book titles, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours). I brace myself, however, for the people who talk about this story, and this collection, taking it as an opportunity to use the word. The story, though, opens out into a psychological terrain that is at once familiar, dazzlingly new, and operating wholly on its own terms. There is a real authority to how this story is told that made me love the collection as a whole. In terms of what I gained though, the main point for me was a reminder of what #OwnVoices means. Movements through time, selection of the most significant events, development of the ending and what constitutes an ending, what should be written as a story versus a novel – this story violates almost every implicit rule of the MFA workshop, and in doing so, completely soars. 

First published in Meridian, Summer 2019, and collected in Give My Love to the Savages, Amistad, 2021

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