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Sunday, April 14, 2024

With debt under control, this gay, Black writer ‘Finally Bought Some Jordans’ – Boulder Daily Camera

Chris Hewitt | (TNS) Star Tribune

The more personal Michael Arceneaux gets in his collection, “I Finally Bought Some Jordans,” the better it gets.

I’m not convinced the essayist has anything fresh to say about climate change, Donald Trump or being kind to restaurant servers, all of which he weighs in on, but his essay on “How It Feel Outside,” which is about his relationship with his folks, is a stunner.

Beginning with Arceneaux musing about how surprisingly loaded “How are you?” is when he asks it of his dad, “How It Feel” deals with being gay and Black and wondering how his parents will react to meeting a theoretical partner, but also covers territory most adult children can probably relate to at some point in their relationship with their folks.

Arceneaux describes his anger with his mom and dad. They love him for who he is but seem to have put up a few walls. He also admits his shortcomings as a son, acknowledging that, even if there are things they don’t feel comfortable talking about, he and his folks have found their way to a bond that works.

His mother (who died recently) worried, for instance, about material in Arceneaux’s earlier books, “I Can’t Date Jesus” and “I Don’t Want to Die Poor” (beginning all three titles with “I” suggests Arceneaux knows his own life is his best subject). In a phone conversation, Arceneaux writes, “I listened to her explain that she doesn’t want me to repeat her mistakes of holding on to anger for too long. She said it will make you sick. She said it can and will kill you. She said you will waste too many years of your life being angry.”

Some of the essays, including those about housing and writing, pick up on themes in “Die Poor,” which was about drowning in student loans. Arceneaux is not debt-free yet but he’s in a better place (that’s where the Jordan purchase comes in). And although he’s not in the business of giving advice, his approach to the psychology of debt relief is smart and helpful.

Arceneaux is a fluid writer, but I wish he’d had more help from an editor. The rampant use of italics in “Jordan” is distracting and there are too many sentences like this one: “At the same time, I sometimes am growing tired of constantly having to prove my value.” The evident frustration is understandable for a man who is, as Arceneaux points out, a double minority. But the sentence is janky.

Quibbles aside, Arceneaux has an opinion on just about everything and a snarky, unafraid-of-confrontation voice to back it up. He expresses ambivalence about writing — specifically, journalism — but it’s clear that, wherever he chooses to take his talents, he is a man with something to say.


I Finally Bought Some Jordans

By: Michael Arceneaux.

Publisher: HarperOne, 224 pages, $19.99.

©2024 StarTribune. Visit at startribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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