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Jonathan Escoffery

Jonathan Escoffery’s debut novel, If I Survive You, was longlisted for the National Book Award for fiction in 2022. He is the recipient of the 2020 Plimpton Prize for Fiction, a 2020 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, and the 2020 ASME Award for Fiction. His fiction has appeared in the Paris Review, American Short Fiction, Prairie Schooner, AGNI, Passages North, ZYZZYVA, and Electric Literature, and has been anthologized in Best American Magazine Writing. He received his MFA from the University of Minnesota, is a PhD candidate at the University of Southern California, and a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. If I Survive You is his debut book.

In If I Survive You, Topper and Sanya flee to Miami as political violence consumes their native Kingston. But America in the 1970s, as the couple and their two children learn, is far from the promised land. Excluded from society as Black immigrants, the family pushes through Hurricane Andrew and later the 2008 recession, living in a house so cursed that the pet fish launches itself out of its own tank rather than stay. But even as things fall apart, the family remains motivated, often to its own detriment, by what their younger son, Trelawny, calls “the exquisite, racking compulsion to survive.”

Masterfully constructed with heart and humor, the linked stories in Jonathan Escoffery’s If I Survive You center on Trelawny as he struggles to carve out a place for himself amid financial disaster, racism, and flat-out bad luck. After a fight with Topper, reckoning with his failures as a parent and his longing for Jamaica, Trelawny claws his way out of homelessness through a series of odd, often hilarious jobs. Meanwhile, his brother, Delano, attempts a disastrous cash grab to get his kids back, and his cousin, Cukie, looks for a father who doesn’t want to be found. As each character searches for a foothold, they never forget the profound danger of climbing without a safety net.

Pulsing with vibrant lyricism and inimitable style, sly commentary and contagious laughter, Escoffery’s debut unravels what it means to be in between homes and cultures in a world at the mercy of capitalism and Whiteness. With If I Survive You, Escoffery announces himself as a prodigious storyteller in a class of his own, a chronicler of American life at its most gruesome and hopeful.

Jonathan Escoffery