Flying Home: seven stories of the secret city
Author events with David Nicholson
David Nicholson's recent book launch, June 2015.
Flying Home author David Nicholson speaking and signing books on June 28 at Upshur Street Books in Washington, DC:
Reviews of Flying Home
You can “Flying Home” here, in Camille Acker’s October 5th 2018 review of "7 Essential Washington, D.C., Books (That Aren't About Politics)":
"Nicholson recognizes D.C.’s shrouded identity in the title of his short story collection. Centered in and around LeDroit Park in NW D.C., Nicholson’s is a pre-gentrification version of a neighborhood once home to DC’s most storied black citizens. In the book’s pages, a drive becomes a vehicle for memory and pain, and trouble can be found easily on the street but so can grace and redemption."
Another recent review is at Washington City Paper:
Jonetta Rose Barras provided the first review of Flying Home:
"DAVID Nicholson's Flying Home, features cinematic storytelling, rich in lyrical, descriptive language and filled with authentic African-American characters. This debut fiction collection by a former editor of the Washington Post Book World Washington and founder of Black Film Review magazine, reminds us of people and African-American communities we may have forgotten, as the old die and neighborhoods become more racially and economically diversified.
"But his powerful stories do not smother us in a nostalgic rendition of all things black. Rather they take us to parts of present day Washington, D.C., behind the monuments, the museums and the enclave of federal office buildings. We travel past commercial corridors, like U St. NW and H. St. NE. made popular by journalists who refuse to travel to the city's bountiful and beautiful interior.
"A native Washingtonian, Nicholson does not place readers in any specific neighborhood, except Chevy Chase, which is predominantly white. His African-American characters refer to the street and the avenue, although a student of the city's history and geography would probably assume the latter might be Rhode Island Ave. But the landmarks Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and the Howard Theater, for example and the book's cover leave little doubt the stories whisper about the lives of folks in the nation's capital who are not often discussed, except perhaps when sociologists seek to conjure pathologies.
"'Living on the street is like walking into the Sylvan after the picture's started,' says the narrator of Getting On the Good Foot. Neville knows he'll never really understand what he's watching because he missed all the important stuff.
"The recently arrived to the District of Columbia may have missed much of its development but Nicholson clues them into the good, the remarkable and the extraordinary in the ordinary. He portrays tough boys, like Big Boy Bullock and his crew, who are mostly harmless but with whom young Neville and Wilson do not wish to tangle.
"Nicholson takes readers inside the barbershop, a cultural center, where black males and some females have gathered for more years than I have been on this earth. The barbershop men in A Few Good Men, including proprietor Lamarr Jenkins, womanizer Speed, and Hubble tell tall and tender tales. Lloyd Carver, for example, loved a woman so deep and hard, she sent him to the poorhouse and an early grave. As the men close out an evening of cutting heads, shaving faces, and sharing stories, it s the one relayed by Hubble that leaves everyone in the shop puzzled, and this reader saddened.
"We are allowed to eavesdrop on the quiet evening conversations of maturing black women without men; they counsel each other not to become victims. There are couples, like Daisy and Odis Renfro; he tries to teach his son the definition of manhood, only to be treated to his own refresher course.
"The husbands and wives, married for years, are still learning each other, the depth of their commitment and the strength of their love to each other, which gets them through the turbulence of life as working class people. In Seasons, Nicholson exposes us to the renewal of love and admiration between Tyson and his wife Garnet, who works for a white family in Chevy Chase. A former pitcher with the Dixie Dukes of Washington, D.C. a Negro baseball team that mimics the Washington Homestead Grays Tyson has been telling a story about striking out Babe Ruth. Did it happen as he spun the tale to Jesse, the son of Garnet's employer? The answer comes when the young boy shows up at Tyson and Garnet's front door ...
"Folks interested in knowing the real DC—the one that continues to exist, despite tales of its demise—may want to pick up a copy of this wonderful collection."
What fellow writers are saying about Flying Home
“David Nicholson’s Flying Home, a debut collection of seven stories, is simply astonishing. Nicholson probes deeply into black lives, and lives of the poor—and the professional—and shows us that they matter and how. Dialogue and dialect are spot on, the weather tangible, sentences as taut and vibrant as guitar strings, characters so real a reader feels enriched by and even responsible for their situations (we are all our brothers’ keepers). I recommend this as a book to read, to lend, to teach, and to return to; it is beautifully written.” —Kelly Cherry, author of A Kind of Dream: Stories
“In Flying Home, David Nicholson, the dauntless founder of Black Film Review, gives us a series of absorbing stories, captured for the reader in a linguistical version of CinemaScope, along with a most playful riff on Ralph Ellison’s narrative style. Intimate yet wide-angled, imaginative and probing, Nicholson’s collection is, as its last tale reveals, full of the inspiration and longing that come with having seen Hendrix perform live on the grandest of stages when music and society were on the edge of revolution.” —Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
“David Nicholson’s collection of stories is powerful, lyrical, and poignant—they slide into your soul and stay there. These stories spoke to my heart, and haven’t quite left me.” —Sara J. Henry, award-winning author of A Cold and Lonely Place
“David Nicholson is such a gifted, assured storyteller that I read Flying Home in a single sitting, pulled from one beautifully written, wise, and moving story to the next, so enchanted by the lives he explores in the ‘secret city,’ and by his skill, that I was unaware of the passage of time. This is superbly crafted, memorable writing that will leave readers hungering for more.” —Charles Johnson, National Book Award-winning author of Middle Passage
“Sad, wise, funny, and forty other things, reading any one of David’s stories is like watching a crystal form in front of your eyes: all the elements are there at once but the way they find each other, the connections made and the meanings forged, is genuinely impressive.” —Mike Lankford, author of Life in Double Time: Confessions of an American Drummer
“David Nicholson, and all those people I mentioned to you: You should talk to them. Really, go talk to them. Get a book out about them. Find a way to cultivate a larger audience for them.” —James Alan McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Elbow Room
“Flying Home is a collection of wonderful short stories. Nicholson writes like an elder watching a city change and knowing the difference between life and death. There is sweet goodness in these tales. Wisdom can be found in this book too. ‘Seasons’ is a baseball story I fell in love with. ‘Flying Home’ made me want to hug my daughter again—like it was fifteen years ago. As Washington slow dances with gentrification it’s good to know a way of life has not been erased. Yes, the barbershop is open and friends still give rides to those who no longer know how to fly.” —E. Ethelbert Miller, poet
“David Nicholson, like his literary ancestors Ralph Ellison, James Alan McPherson, and Bernard Malamud, illuminates the mythic in the everyday lives of Americans whose stories are all too rarely deemed worthy of art… In Flying Home, David Nicholson shines his compassion and wisdom on them all.” —Eileen Pollack, author of In the Mouth and Breaking and Entering
“David Nicholson writes with subtle insight, vividly rendered, into the human condition. Flying Home is an accomplished book of stories that take us behind the curtains of race and class that separate us and often hide our common humanity.” —Arnold Rampersad, author of Ralph Ellison: A Biography
“Flying Home is not elegiac, for there’s too much love and humor and landscape in this fine collection about the often-hidden heart of the city. The people are real, and the place is vivid.” —Susan Straight, author of A Million Nightingales and Highwire Moon, a finalist for the National Book Award
“David Nicholson, in Flying Home, his evocative and potent fiction debut, tells stories so grounded in specifics as to seem folkloric, delivering folklore on pavement. He writes in unhurried and assured prose, with sentences that can, when called for, become flowing, full of eddies and swirls. Dizzy Gillespie once said that it took him a lifetime to learn what not to play, and I believe Nicholson heard him and has also done that very thing.” —Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter’s Bone and The Maid’s Version
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