White Rat: Short Stories
The acclaimed author’s first collection of stories
“Gayl Jones’s work represents a watershed in American literature. From a literary standpoint, her form is impeccable . . . and as a Black woman writer, her truth-telling, filled with beauty, tragedy, humor, and incisiveness, is unmatched.” —Imani Perry
Gayl Jones has been described as one of the great literary writers of the 20th century and was recently a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and The National Book Award. This collection of short fiction was her third book, originally edited and published by Toni Morrison in 1977, and is reissued now alongside her second collection, BUTTER, in paperback for the first time.
The collection contains twelve provocative tales that explore the emotional and mental terrain of a diverse cast of characters, from the innocent to the insane. In each, Jones displays her unflinching ability to dive into the most treacherous of psyches and circumstances: the title story examines the identity and relationship conundrums of a black man who can pass for white, earning him the name “White Rat” as an infant; “The Women” follows a girl whose mother brings a line of female lovers to live in their home; “Jevata” details eighteen-year-old Freddy’s relationship with the fifty-year-old title character; “The Coke Factory” tracks the thoughts of a mentally handicapped adolescent abandoned by his mother; and “Asylum” focuses on a woman having a nervous breakdown, trying to protect her dignity and her private parts as she enters an institution. In uncompromising prose, and dialect that veers from northern, educated tongues to down-home southern colloquialisms, Jones illuminates lives that society ignores, moving them to center stage.
Praise for White Rat: Short Stories
“Gayl Jones is some furious, lacerating writer. You don’t read her easily, and you can’t forget her at all.”
“One of the most versatile and transformative writers of the 20th century.”
—Imani Perry, in The New York Times magazine, and author of South to America
“Gayl Jones conjures with deep intimacy and immediacy a brutal world that is centuries past but fully alive with spirit and mystery. Page after breathtaking page, her prose is intricate, mesmerizing, and endlessly inventive and subversive.”
—Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
“Telling stories out loud was a matter of survival—and the way Jones wields this tradition transforms even a nursery rhyme into something dirty, dangerous, and important.”
—Calvin Baker, The Atlantic, and author of A More Perfect Reunion