Light Skin Gone to Waste

Stories

Light Skin Gone to Waste

Stories

A dazzling collection that examines race, class, community, family, and the meaning of home

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In 1962 Philip Arrington, a psychologist with a PhD from Yeshiva, arrives in the small, mostly blue-collar town of Monroe, New York, to rent a house for himself and his new wife. They're Black, something the man about to show him the house doesn't know. With that, we're introduced to the Arringtons: Phil, Velma, his daughter Livia (from a previous marriage), and his youngest, Madeline, soon to be born. They're cosmopolitan. Sophisticated. They're also troubled, arrogant, and throughout the linked stories, falling apart.

We follow the family as Phil begins his private practice, as Velma opens her antiques shop, and as they buy new homes, collect art, go skiing, and have overseas adventures. It seems they've made it in the white world. However, young Maddie, one of the only Black children in town, bears the brunt of the racism and the invisible barriers her family's money, education, and determination can't free her from. As she grows up and realizes her father is sleeping with white women, her mother is violently mercurial, and her half-sister resents her, Maddie must decide who she is despite, or perhaps precisely because of, her family.

Toni Ann Johnson's Light Skin Gone to Waste is one of the most engrossing short story collections I've read in recent memory. These interconnected stories about a black family living in a predominantly white suburb of New York City are impeccably written, incisive, often infuriating, and unforgettable. At the center of many of these stories is Philip Arrington, a psychologist who tries to reshape the world to his liking as he moves through it, regardless of the ways his actions affect the people in his intimate orbit. With a deft eye for detail, crisp writing, and an uncanny understanding of human frailties, Toni Ann Johnson has created an endlessly interesting American family portrait.

—Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist

Toni Ann Johnson's vivid and complex understanding of race, colorism, and interracial love in America has allowed her to capture its essence and create life and a sharp new world on the page. In its menacing violences-words spoken and unspoken, actions and expectations-Johnson portrays her characters with marvelous astuteness; her dialogue shimmers with context and emotion; her settings leave you with new memories as if you've watched her scenes. A linked story collection, Light Skin Gone to Waste is brilliant.

—Natashia Deón, author of The Perishing and GRACE

About the Author/Editor

Toni Ann Johnson is the author of Homegoing, a novella, and the novel Remedy for a Broken Angel, which earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Literary Work by a Debut Author. She is a two- time winner of the Humanitas Prize for her screenplays Ruby Bridges, for Disney, and Crown Heights, for Showtime Television. Johnson's essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Hunger Mountain, Callaloo, and many other publications. She lives in Los Angeles.