How Are You Going to Save Yourself is a stunning accomplishment, a debut book that reads like the work of a writer with decades of experience. It’s an unflinching look at themes that not too many authors are eager to tackle, and a book that asks important questions and challenges the reader to answer them honestly, as uncomfortable as those answers might be.
JM Holmes’ debut is a game-changing book on race and masculinity.
As up-to-the-minute as a Kendrick Lamar track and as ruefully steeped in eternal truths as a Gogol tale, these stories of young working-class black men coming into their dubious inheritances mark the debut of an assured young talent in American storytelling
It is a rare gift to us all when a writer’s talents and subject command equal attention, but that is just what we have here in JM Holmes’s superb debut, How Are You Going to Save Yourself. Written in spare, colloquial, and deeply evocative prose, these linked stories capture the contemporary lives of young men trying to find their way in this world, young men who also happen to be black in a post-industrial, ever-changing cultural landscape. These powerful stories herald the rise of an important and timely new voice among us, and I will now look for anything by JM Holmes.
[How Are You Going to Save Yourself] are images of life that tantalisingly glimmer, treading the line between humour and pathos, offering sharp insights into the black American experience.
JM Holmes is not just a new voice but a new force: honest, urgent, compelling, often hilarious, and more often gut-wrenching. In How Are You Going to Save Yourself, he writes with remarkable compassion and intelligence about characters whose own compassion and intelligence sometimes betray them. Comparisons to Junot Díaz and Denis Johnson are perhaps inevitable, but I imagine they’ll prove short-lived; in a few years we’ll be comparing writers to JM Holmes.
Buckle up! JM Holmes’s debut grabs you with the first sentence and doesn’t let go till it drops you gasping after the last period. This collection offers a tough and heartbreaking vision of masculinity, as powerful as it is uncomfortable. But boy is it worth the ride.
JM Holmes writes like someone told him Denis Johnson and Mat Johnson were brothers. These stories are as ferocious and fearless as those of his heroes.