A Memory of Fictions (or) Just Tiddy-Boom

Leonce Gaiter

Publisher: Legba Books Pages: 332 Price: ISBN: 9798990289901 Reviewed: June, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

In Leonce Gaiter’s autofiction novel, black male identity is artfully examined through the personal history of an aspiring black writer who dreams of Hollywood success.

Growing up an Army brat, Jessie Vincent Grandier III is used to feeling like an outsider. As the youngest child and only son in a family of five, Jessie’s close relationship with his beautiful mother sparks frustration and resentment in his alcoholic, abusive father. Uninterested in a traditional boyhood, Jessie rejects sports and father-son bonding time to pursue creative enlightenment.

After a few years in New Orleans, the family moves to Washington, D.C., and Jessie finds safety in his like-minded high school friends, believing he’s destined for post-suburbia greatness. His academic excellence culminates in admission to Harvard, where he shuns black solidarity. After graduation, Jessie leaves for Los Angeles to become a screenwriter. But the longer he’s in California, the further his literary possibilities recede, until Jessie seeks salvation in drinking, becoming the person he never wanted to emulate: his father.

Gaiter’s wonderfully evocative language, filled with musicality, captures the complexity of Jessie’s emotions as he struggles to make sense of his sexuality and place in the world. Observing Harvard’s openly gay men, Jessie notes: “Scarves flew in all directions when they walked in a room. Hips followed.”

The author’s stream-of-consciousness, third-person narrative abandons chronological order, shifting between past and present. Some chapters include the year and geographical location to orient readers; others feature tangible documents like obituaries. Still, the style may frustrate some readers.

And while most of the narrative is engaging, the abrupt ending — going back in time to before Jesse achieved sobriety— deviates from Jessie’s hard-won physical recovery and inner journey, to its detriment.

Nonetheless, readers will find much to appreciate in this unconventional coming-of-age narrative, which excavates the wounds of an artist striving for self-actualization rather than societal acceptance and deconstructs the derogatory assumption that black culture and blackness are a monolith.