I Read Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s ‘Friday Black’.

steve cuocci
3 min readMar 21, 2024

I was drawn back into Adjei-Brenyah’s fiction because after reading Chain-Gang All-Stars, it seems to be the only book that I want to talk about. His vision of the world, his ability to capture pain but to highlight the beauty and love within the darkness is something so addicting. Friday Black acts as a collection of short stories, all of which vary in their theme, tone and setting. That being said, I’ve talked about collections of stories before, and the biggest thing to remember in terms of a book like this is that there will always be some that can hit and some that can miss. I also love the idea of amassing these stories over time, and thinking about how vast the difference in the person he was between writing the first story and finishing editing the final one. The growth is immense.

My favorites in the collection were Lark Street, The Finkelstein 5, Light Spitter, and Through the Flash. The thoughts range in these, but many of them brim with violence, and loss. Where he was able to put a lot of those same thoughts on display in Chain-Gang, these stories hit in major swings, but I think missed a little bit in their nuance and in the way that he was able to land it so close to heart and home. His talent is impossible to ignore, though. The way he is able to dissect Life and get his fingers under the bone, into the guts, and pull out the things you don’t want to look at is illuminating. And to be able to lasso the thoughts of people at their most desperate and to create an environment within the minds of deep struggle is a talent that’s very difficult to emulate. His voice is strong, sharp. It cuts deeply.

I also thought it was interesting that stories like Friday Black, In Retail and How to Sell a Jacket As Told by IceKing all center around what it means to work in a retail environment. I think it’s really easy to think that one can write about Work and the people you work with and the funny/wild stories that happen and the inner dialog that you have while you’re within it. It is not easy. You can write as much as you like, but to be able to capture it in the same way that these stories have is extraordinarily difficult. They aren’t the best writing in the book, but the continuity within the stories is great. These stories also do a great job at illustrating the soul-evacuating nature of what it can take to be “good at your job”. It ignites the line between Workers and Customers. And the perspective is stark.

I recommend this collection, for sure. Where Chain-Gang All-Stars was a book that screamed MESSAGE, this one has moments of that perspective but doesn’t double down quite as hard. I think this is a far better introduction to the author, so if you’ve heard the name and were thinking about jumping in, this is where to start. Then build your way up. Can’t wait for more.