Set in a Harlem high rise, a stunning debut about a tight-knit cast of characters grappling with their own personal challenges while the forces of gentrification threaten to upend life as they know it.
Like Gloria Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place and Lin Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, Sidik Fofana’s electrifying collection of eight interconnected stories showcases the strengths, struggles, and hopes of one residential community in a powerful storytelling experience.
Each short story follows a tenant in the Banneker Homes, a low-income high rise in Harlem where gentrification weighs on everyone’s mind. There is Swan in apartment 6B, whose excitement about his friend’s release from prison jeopardizes the life he’s been trying to lead. Mimi, in apartment 14D, who hustles to raise the child she had with Swan, waitressing at Roscoe’s and doing hair on the side. And Quanneisha B. Miles, a former gymnast with a good education who wishes she could leave Banneker for good, but can’t seem to escape the building’s gravitational pull. We root for these characters and more as they weave in and out of each other’s lives, endeavoring to escape from their pasts and blaze new paths forward for themselves and the people they love.
Stories from the Tenants Downstairs brilliantly captures the joy and pain of the human experience and heralds the arrival of a uniquely talented writer.
Sidik Fofana earned an MFA from New York University. He lives with his wife and son in New York City where he is a public school teacher.
“It’s impossible not to get sucked into this debut effort.”–Essence
“The portraits are conveyed in tight-woven, propulsive, rhythmically rich vernacular… A singular accomplishment from a writer to watch.”–Library Journal (starred review)
“Fofana shows an ear for pacing and for evocative, frequently musical language... A striking voice, and his protagonists will linger in readers' imaginations."–Shelf Awareness
"The residents of a low-income high-rise apartment building in Harlem form the beating heart of Fofana’s dynamic debut collection... These engrossing and gritty stories of tenuous living in a gentrifying America enchant."
–Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
“Captivating... vividly and desperately authentic.”
–Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"A collection that will make your jaw drop several times... What a gift Fofana’s writing is, especially now."
–Mateo Askaripour, author of Black Buck
“Stories from The Tenants Downstairs heralds an indelible, inimitable new literary voice... This magnificent collection is not only a great joy to read, it’s evocative, essential art.”
–Mitchell S. Jackson, author of Survival Math and The Residue Years
"[Fofana] has given us a beautiful blueprint for the gentrification story: let it be bold, let it honor the complexities of those who are struggling to hold on... The voices of the residents of Banneker Terrace linger and echo long after the last page."
–Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
"What [Sidik Fofana] does with these stories, and with our beautiful, bottomless American language, is nothing short of revelatory. Buy this book, and prepare to be blasted by the brilliance inside."
–Ben Fountain, author of Beautiful Country Burn Again
“Mr. Fofana has an acute ear and a perfect eye, and he doesn’t rush. This is important American art.”
–Lorrie Moore, author of Bark