Only the Strong

Only the Strong

4.03 (199 ratings by Goodreads)
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"Captivating." --Jane Ciabattari, NPR Book Concierge: Best Books of 2015 "Incomparable charisma and verve." --The Root, Best Fiction of 2015 "Lean, mean, and moving." --Kirkus Reviews, Kirkus Prize nominee Jabari Asim's debut novel returns readers to Gateway City, the fictional Midwestern city first explored in his acclaimed short story collection, Taste of Honey. Against a 1970s backdrop of rapid social and political change, Only the Strong portrays the challenges and rewards of love in a quintessential American community where heartbreak and violence are seldom far away. Moved by the death of Martin Luther King Jr., Lorenzo "Guts" Tolliver decides to abandon his career as a professional leg-breaker and pursue a life of quiet moments and generous helpings of banana pudding in the company of his new, sensuous lover. His erstwhile boss, local kingpin Ananias Goode, is also thinking about slowing down--but his tempestuous affair with Dr. Artinces Noel, a prominent pediatrician, complicates his retirement plans. Meanwhile, Charlotte Divine, the doctor's headstrong protégée, struggles with trials of her own. With prose that's sharp, humorous, and poetic, Asim skillfully renders a compelling portrait of urban life in the wake of the last major civil-rights bill. Massive change is afoot in America, and these characters have front-row seats.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 153 x 229 x 22.86mm | 397g
  • Rochester, NY, United States
  • English
  • 1932841946
  • 9781932841947
  • 2,894,852

Review quote

Praise for Jabari Asim's ONLY THE STRONG "[A] heartfelt, polyphonic ode to 1970s black America. . .Asim manages the highbrow without it ever feeling forced or pedantic--no small feat given the hard-boiled narrative framework, but one made possible by his infectious love for his subject matter and characters." --The Wall Street Journal "The voices of the characters intertwine, building a narrative that bursts full of life. Here are rich, detailed characters, a vivid setting and a historical epoch made personal and intimate through details of experience. An intelligent, superbly executed and gripping masterpiece." --The Root "Asim has given us a book that is at once entertaining and evocative of a moment that truly was a turning point in black and American history. May he continue to give us more work of ever greater ambition and quality." --Chicago Tribune "An important book to read in the context of Ferguson, Baltimore, and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement." --Melissa Harris-Perry "Thoroughly entertaining and stylish. . .deserves favorable comparison to the works of Chester Himes and Walter Mosley." --Publishers Weekly, starred review "Asim has constructed a historically enlightening narrative that is equal parts captivating, gruesome and whimsical." --St. Louis Post-Dispatch "[A] resplendent debut novel. . . The author's decision to create an entire city proves highly effective. It allows you to focus on how an era's broader cultural events affect the characters, rather than on events of a particular city in that era." --The ARTery, "An epic saga of 1970s African American life in a Midwestern city is neatly, deftly, and evocatively compressed into three tales with overlapping characters--and destinies... This narrative suite covers a lot of psychic, cultural, and historic ground, and its nature can shift from crime-and-suspense to love-and-torment in a couple of pages. Yet Asim maintains impressive control of his sinewy style and elegiac tone while also remaining solicitous toward his hard-boiled but tender-souled characters. You will rarely find a historical novel that's as panoramic yet also as lean, mean, and moving as this." --Kirkus, starred review "What makes this novel engaging is how the author evokes a place, a physical and emotional geography. . .a vision of the complex moral texture of an urban black community, both historically and psychically." --The Washington Post "Only the Strong effortlessly transmits Jabari Asim's profound affection for this book's charismatic and varied characters. This is a vivid, revelatory portrait of 1970s America in the disheartened aftermath of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death." --Rafael Yglesias, author of The Wisdom of Perversity "Jabari Asim is such an elegant writer that you won't realize how smoothly he drew you in until you're halfway through this book. Humane and humorous, compassionate and willing to get a little rough, this describes both the writer and the novel. Only the Strong does for St. Louis what Edward P. Jones has done for Washington D.C., Raymond Chandler for Los Angeles--marked it as place on the literary map where you'll want to stay for a long while. A riveting novel." --Victor LaValle, author of The Devil in Silver "Like Sherwood Anderson, Asim creates a vibrant portrait of a community based on distinctive characters with convincing gifts and flaws. Engrossing storytelling." "[Only the Strong] is being compared to work by writers such as Richard Russo and Stuart Dybek because of the strong sense of community. A better comparison would be the successfully rendered Washington of George -Pelecanos.... But, readers drawn to any of these writers will appreciate this excellent piece of urban realism." --Library Journal, starred review, Robert E. Brown, Oswego, NY ." . .readers will recall the work of Ann Petrie, Stuart Dybek, John Edgar Wideman, and Sherwood Anderson--writers who have created nuanced portraits of vivacious American communities. Only the Strong comprises a trio of intertwining narratives, woven deftly together to form a sprawling tableau that is as entertaining as it is ambitious." --Mosaic Magazine "There's an eerie timeliness to the publication of this fictional study of Saint Louis black communities of the 1970s. Only the Strong reminds me of Chester Himes' Harlem entertainments--in its deceptively light handling of desperately serious subject matter. Jabari Asim is a writer to watch, and to listen to closely, in these difficult times." --Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls' Rising and Zig Zag Wanderer "With regard to Dickens, Asim's novel has elements of the best of his work; its Dickensian twists are soap-operatic and emotionally well-earned." "The three stories weave together seamlessly into not just a tightly plotted mystery, but a period piece and deep character study." --St. Louis Magazine "Only the Strong is a lushly atmospheric and passionately written piece of work, bursting with colorful characters that shine on every page." --Bernice L. McFadden, author of Gathering of Waters "It is like stepping into a time capsule of my old neighborhood in the read about Gateway City, Jabari Asim's fascinating rendition of St. Louis, as an adult brings back memories of time and place, and also admiration for his storytelling." --Susan Straight, author of Between Heaven and Here and A Million Nightingales "But the heart of the matter in Only the Strong, named for the eponymous Jerry Butler song, is love. Even a semi-retired leg breaker like Guts can't escape it, and it reveals itself in many layered, rich ways. There's the love between lovers and from parent to child. There's a love of community and making sacrifices to make it better in the face of structural resistance." --BookSlut Praise for Jabari Asim's A TASTE OF HONEY: STORIES "These tales are characterized by a winning lightness of touch and tone--a fundamental generosity of spirit, dusted with nostalgia--that make [Asim's] first book of fiction for adults go down sweetly indeed." --Washington Post "This collection of short stories. . .interweaves the lives of various characters, skillfully rendered, in a textured portrait of life in an urban community." --Vanessa Bush, Booklist "Asim successfully delves into politics, domestic violence, racial identity, young love, and more in this humorous and poignant collection..." --Publishers Weekly "Jabari Asim has written a compelling collection of stories that take us inside the life of a family and community in a tumultuous time." --Lynna Williams, Chicago Tribune "With his debut work of fiction, the Guggenheim Fellow proves himself to be a promising storyteller." --Library Journal "This fiction rings true." --Kirkus Reviews Praise for Jabari Asim's THE N WORD ..".[A]n exhaustive history of white supremacist ideology.... clear, engaging writing." --Publishers Weekly "This important new book sheds light on questions that have long gone unanswered... Every home should have it." --E. Lynn Harris, author of I Say A Little Prayer "Asim addresses the root of this controversial word in American rhetoric and contemporary experience.... a reminder of the troubled legacy of race relations in the US." --Vernon Ford, Booklist "In The N Word, we just might have the definitive word on the essence of power and subordination in America." --Christopher Benson, coauthor of Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America "Jabari Asim persuasively explains why the N word remains a slur and a symbol of inequality." --Mary Frances Berry, Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania
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About Jabari Asim

Born in St. Louis, Jabari Asim is a journalist and author of many works of fiction, nonfiction, essays, poetry, and drama. He is currently the executive editor of The Crisis, the official magazine of the NAACP. He contributes to The Washington Post and Bookforum, and is as an associate professor of creative writing at Emerson College.
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Rating details

199 ratings
4.03 out of 5 stars
5 33% (66)
4 44% (87)
3 18% (36)
2 3% (6)
1 2% (4)
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