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If I Survive You

by Jonathan Escoffery

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3531473,600 (3.65)54
In the 1970s, Topper and Sanya flee to Miami as political violence consumes their native Kingston. But America, as the couple and their two children learn, is far from the promised land. Excluded from society as Black immigrants, the family pushes on 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."… (more)
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» See also 54 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
The effect is subtle but Escoffery makes an emotional connection between the characters and the reader. We had a great book club discussion and we all remarked on the similarities with "Calling for a Blanket Dance", our previous month's book. We agreed that this book drew the reader in to care for all of the characters and struggle along with them. ( )
  ccayne | May 15, 2024 |
I read this as a novel and was completely involved in its first chapter, but it's chapters seem to meander away in short stories while I wanted the narrative force of a novel. Writing was admirable, often funny. ( )
  featherbooks | May 7, 2024 |
Is this a series of short stories linked to make a novel or a novel divided into short stories? Does it matter? No. Is it autobiographical? I don't know.

I am not a massive fan of short stories and so enjoyed the connectedness of these stories - all using the same characters and the on-going battles, some of which are started in the first and my favourite story, In Flux. Here Escoffery explores the question often shouted, presumably at him: What are you? Black? White? Puerto Rican? Hispanic? It's this desire of people to categorise and when you don't neatly fit any category it is hard. People don't say Jamaican-American as they would African-American and so even that isn't acceptable. The seven following stories then develop this theme and others such as parents having a favourite child leading to sibling rivalry, separation, no friends and a girlfriend whose parents don't approve of you.

Set mostly in Miami, there is a long-standing argument over their mother's house. Who gets it when she dies. The older, and favourite, son, Delano, says it will come to him by automatic right unless his younger brother, Trelawney, survives him. There is a lot of anger in this book as Trelawney is forced to take jobs such as cleaning toilets or serving drinks but when he starts to look on Craigslist for extra work the book becomes a little unbelievable - hired to hit a woman and give her a black eye, hired to watch two people having sex - maybe that sort of thing does happen when you are desperate. If all of this isn't enough, Hurricane Andrew hits the family and is almost the last straw until they discover the much-prized house is sinking.

It's a lesson in how racism, poverty and climatic events can undo a family and have them scrabbling for their existence and who they are. ( )
  allthegoodbooks | Jan 3, 2024 |
52. If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery
reader: Torian Brackett
OPD: 2022
format: 8:01 audible audiobook (272-pages in hardcover)
acquired: September 13 listened: Sep 13-27
rating: 3½
genre/style: contemporary fiction theme: Booker 2023
locations: Miami and Jamaica
about the author: American author and professor of creative writing. He was born (~1980) in Houston to Jamaican immigrants and grew up in Miami.

I really enjoyed the opening section where he writes about growing up in South Florida as the son of Jamaican born parents. Not black, not white, not Puerto Rican or other Latino heritage, fictional Trelawney has trouble fitting in S. Florida's very inflexible cultural divisions. I'm older than Escoffery, but I grew up that 1980's S. Florida world too - ethnically diverse, with no mixing.

The book goes much softer after that. He seems to push to cover the impoverished experience in S. Florida, where it's a little weirder in its own way than elsewhere, a little hyper-showy and hyper-unethical. But the book does this with less complicated characters and some social-media-meme friendly plot points. So, overall ok.

2023
https://www.librarything.com/topic/351556#8243812 ( )
2 vote dchaikin | Sep 30, 2023 |
Reason read: shared read for TIOLI, a Booker Long list book.
I didn't realize that this was going to be short stories. The stories are considered connected but at times it felt disjointed rather than connected. The main character is Trelawney and his family; Delano (older brother), mother, father. There is a story of Cukie and his father Ox. The setting is Miami and the time period is 70s to 90s. Trelawny was born in the US. He doesn't fit in to any clear box. He's not black, white and therefore he is unable to find his identity in the US. He is born here so he is not an immigrant.
I enjoyed the short stories but at times I found it disjointed. I don't think the book is so much about race but it is about identity and finding your tribe. Other themes included immigration and destruction. ( )
  Kristelh | Sep 19, 2023 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jonathan Escofferyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Torian BrackettNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the 1970s, Topper and Sanya flee to Miami as political violence consumes their native Kingston. But America, as the couple and their two children learn, is far from the promised land. Excluded from society as Black immigrants, the family pushes on 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."

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