How I Shed My Skin
In this memoir, Grimsley traces his journey away from bigotry; the book tells the story of school desegregation in eastern North Carolina during the years 1966-1972. The tale begins when three black girls walk into his sixth grade classroom, facing a body of white students who have shared the same classroom up until that point. The presence of the black girls changes that small world in large ways, and a bit of history overtakes Grimsley’s Jones County home.
Perhaps the most incisive parts of this memoir are the sections wherein Grimsley examines how a white Southern boy might learn to be a racist. One of the most extraordinary passages in the book is a catalog of all the casual ways the N-word was easily deployed around him from early childhood, even by his parents: from racist nursery rhymes to racist similes — smelling like, dressing like, dancing like, with hair like . . . and on and on. . . . An elegiac reminder that 40 years later, those tensions have not been entirely laid to rest.
In the most compelling sections of How I Shed My Skin, Grimsley acknowledges the racism around him. There were many good people in his life – good people who were also racists. When he explores if and how those characteristics can coexist, he brings together his present and his past.
Looking back some 40 years later, acclaimed writer Grimsley offers a beautifully written coming-of-age recollection from the era of racial desegregation.
[Grimsley’s] memories of junior high and high school remain especially vivid and poignant, and he recalls them in sometimes agonizing detail in How I Shed My Skin…Like Randall Kenan, he catches the weird ethos of a generation caught with one foot in Gone with the Wind or To Kill a Mockingbird and another in the world of “Star Trek” and Motown…How I Shed My Skin reminds us how far we’ve come in 40 years, and how far we didn’t go.
Grimsley has a powerful tale to tell, about change, and the fears and triumphs that go with it… despite the continued crossfire, he and his classmates – “cool and slouched, shy and lost” – desegregated the schools of Jones County and became instruments of its history.
Excellent…layer by layer, young Grimsley sheds his deepest beliefs, prime among them that white skin bestows superiority…a must-read book.
A powerful meditation on race.
The violence is just half the story. The other half is the poetry that infuses Winter Birds… A white-trash Southern landscape viewed from a gay perspective, with the bitterness of memory but also with unwavering, unsentimental love.
Tell everyone. I have rarely read anything as powerful. Winter Birds is altogether marvelous, so beautifully written I wanted to steal it and pretend it was mine, or go on tour reading it aloud so people could hear how getting it right makes you both hurt and happy, makes you cry out loud and sing praises, simply that we are human.
A story that blisters the sensibilities and shreds the heartstrings.
Extraordinarily vivid… written very close to the senses. The sight, sounds, smell, and feel of the country are wonderfully realized.
Like a Greek tragedy, Winter Birds moves inexorably from its hypnotic opening to its final, chilling revelation, leaving the reader stunned, exhausted, and wonder-struck.
Grimsley has created a harrowing Southern gothic world, reminiscent of Faulkner or Caldwell. A remarkable first novel.
One of the most beautifully written and emotionally passionate books I’ve read in years.
If there was a Richter scale with which to measure emotional intensity, Winter Birds would come out at an 8.8 and the aftershocks would register for weeks afterward. If the line between love and hatred could be clearly discernible, Winter Birds would be its yardstick. If I were to write a novel, I would wish it to be half as fine as Winter Birds.
With this heartbreaking story of first love, Grimsley, recipient of the 1995 Sue Kaufman Prize for his first novel, Winter Birds, has crafted another potential award winner. Here he works that novel’s theme–a father’s abuse of his son–into his sensitive depiction of a love affair between two high-school boys in the rural South. Nathan, a sophomore and the only child of an abusive, scripture-quoting, booze-guzzling father and a nearly invisible mother, becomes smitten with Roy, a senior who lives next door. Almost without realizing it (and with some reluctance on both sides), they begin an achingly tender romance. Ultimately, peer pressure leads to tragedy, and to a sort of metaphysical denouement that may strike some readers as over-the-top. But by that time, Grimsley’s scenario has become so poignant and credible that the ending seems almost inevitable. He clearly understands the pain and confusion of budding love, and his present-tense narrative adds urgency and a touching immediacy to his tale. Without ever succumbing to cliche, Grimsley cuts with surgical precision to the heart of these characters’ inchoate longings and barely repressed fears. Deceptively simple descriptive passages are hauntingly elegiac, and things left unsaid become as important as words expressed: these players’ silences speak volumes. Romantic passion, violence and ultimate liberation coalesce in this singular display of literary craftsmanship.
Holds the reader’s attention as completely as a line of gunpowder sputtering its way toward a keg of explosives… captivating.
I’ve never read a novel remotely like Dream Boy, and my admiration for Jim Grimsley’s power is widened and deepened.
Grimsley proves once again that he can create believable characters and poignant situations that are resonant and heartfelt.
Jim Grimsley confronts the violence of adolescent homophobia, but also, and maybe more importantly, he describes the emotional texture – the loneliess – of growing up queer, and the bravery and special intensity of finding love in a hostile environment. Grimsley demonstrates that two working-class boys loving each other, in the rural South, is an act as profound as it is simple.
Ellen Crell, late in life, finds herself obsessed by a dream that comes to her over and over again, in which her mother steps down a riverbank into dark water and disappears. Pursuit of the memory leads her into a current of memory that is changeable and deep as she realizes her own childhood is more vivid to her than her present world. This novel completes the story of the mother in Winter Birds; for this book Grimsley was named Georgia Author of the Year.
An evocative, uncompromising account of a hardscrabble childhood in rural North Carolina that shows Grimsley to be an accomplished stylist and a complex moralist… Grimsley’s delicate prose and the defiant resilience of his protagonist make reaching his work a richly gratifying experience.
Moving, vivid, and very real: a work of tremendous, quiet intensity.
A compelling tale of a woman haunted by a half-remembered past.
Even the desperately poor in fact and in spirit also have a depth of being that can scarcely be imagined by others. This is a heavy burden for a slender, tightly trimmed, pared-down, evocative novel to carry… There is nobody that I know of who writes like Grimsley, none among us who can speak so well for those who have been voiceless, if not ignored, amid the clamor of our culture.
Ellen is an appealing narrator, and these recollections of stolen moments of love provide welcome relief from the viciousness all around her. They also provide occasions for some lyrical prose among Mr. Grimsley’s powerful and painfully detailed descriptions of an especially vile sort of poverty.
My Drowning should secure [Grimsley’s] reputation as one of the finest southern novelists to appear in a long, long time.
Comfort and Joy
Danny Crell brings his partner Ford McKinney home for Christmas, triggering tension in his family as they must accept his same-sex relationship; Ford’s family has rejected them both, though over this Christmas Ford will come to understand that he must confront his own family in the same way that Danny has done with his. The couple has gone through a hard early passage as both men have had to come to terms with Ford’s reticence to be open about his sexuality as well as Danny’s hemophilia and HIV status. A finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Men’s Literature.
Grimsley has a steady hand with the beautifully turned sentence, and his mature, sympathetic but rarely sentimental eye for the warp and woof of relationships should please his old fans and gain him some new ones.
Anyone who’s ever brought a significant other home to meet the folks should relate to this affecting story.
Tells a story of relationships and the power we have over each other – a power to both crave and fear. Highly recommended.
Comfort and Joy turns out to be one of the most satisfying and touching reads of the year.
Comfort and Joy stands on its own as a finely honed, understated tale of love and its challenges… Grimsley has presented the story of these two men and their families beautifully and memorably. Comfort and Joy is a rewarding read.
The novel’s highly poetic language intensifies that charge [of suspense], with frequent passages of such lyric beauty they could stand alone as poems.
Grimsley gets it absolutely right.
His fullest an most human novel yet, a work whose commendable restraint does not impede its emotional impact.
Comfort and Joy is something of an old-fashioned page-turner… Grimsley’s fine, rigorous prose makes a similarly strong case for setting down a drama of singular inner feeling, and Comfort and Joy unfolds under that same irresistible sign.
Mr. Universe and Other Plays
A collection of four plays, Mr. Universe, Math & Aftermath, The Borderlands, and The Lizard of Tarsus; in Mr. Universe, winner of the 1988 Oppenheimer for Best New American Play, two drag queens discover an injured bodybuilder, mute, wandering the streets of the French Quarter. In deciding to help him by offering him shelter for the night, they set a series of events in motion that will change their life. The collection was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Drama.BUY NOW
Newell moves to New Orleans from Pastel, Alabama, with a couple of hundred dollars in his pocket and a hunger to test his strength and independence in the streets of the French Quarter, where he will come to understand his own sexuality and the appetites that awaken in him. He gets a job in an adult bookstore and explores the world of sex and danger. Grimsley was named Georgia Author of the Year for the second time for this novel.
Once again, Grimsley has created remarkably real characters and a New Orleans setting readers can almost smell. He has a way of touching very raw emotions… Highly recommended.
If Dickens had written a gay novel, his cast might look a bit like this.
In this fantasy novel, a young farmer’s son is called into the proscribed territory of an old forest to serve the hereditary prince of Aeryn; there he is taught magic by three strange women and learns that he will play a part in a battle with a powerful, immortal wizard. Jessex and the prince form a deep bond with one another as the world in which they live descends into a war that is longer and more destructive than they imagined. Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror.
For a first time fantasist, Grimsley has shown a remarkable understanding of what makes the genre powerful.
Grimsley crafts an elegant tale of love, war, and magic in the epic fantasy tradition.
A man plots to kill his wife when she refuses to divorce him; their family, lost in material comfort and blatant consumption, festers like a wound. Part of the inaugural James Michener Fiction Series of the University of Texas at Auston Press.
Grimsley’s tale is a scathingly unfunny look at American materialism.
A portal appears in the Hormling ocean that leads to another world, and Jedda Martele, a linguist, joins an expedition into the heart of this new country. In this science fiction successor to the fantasy novel Kirith Kirin, Grimsley explores the conflict that arises when a world driven by science collides with a world in which magic has always dominated life and politics. Both worlds come to a crisis of belief as the idea of magic undermines the authority of science in the Hormling world, while in Irion the success of science brings about powerful doubts in the religion that has always governed the Erejhen people. Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, and a Booklist Top Ten Book of the Year selection.
Grimsley’s finely textured societies have a clockwork intricacy that fascinates even as it dispels surprise. Unlike many “literary” authors who fail when they try to write SF… Grimsley has the necessary worldbuilding skills to shine brightly here.
The Ordinary is an important novel… Think of high-quality anthropological SF where antithetical societies meet, as in Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness.
The Last Green Tree
The Hormling have come to be ruled by the wizard Malin and her forebear Irion; on their colony planet a powerful invader instigates a civil war that proves magic to be vulnerable after centuries in which no military threat has been able to shake its authority. Refugees from the Hormling home world join with natives of Aramen to discover the source of the war and to stop it if they can.
One of the most exciting new voices in science fiction.
An audacious, ambitious, and highly literate author with a unique, inventive, and exotic vision of the future, and a profound understanding of the human heart.
Jesus Is Sending You This Message
A collection of short stories published by Allyson Books; stories include the title tale, which was anthologized in New Stories of the South: The Year’s Best 2001, and Best of the South: From Ten Years of New Stories from the South.
His is a unique voice… always compelling us, as readers, as audience, to enter his world for a time.
There are few writers who can sustain our attention through tone and voice. Jim Grimsley belongs in this elite group.