An inventive and stylish debut written by a Black educator, Wings of Red is a clear-eyed, funny, imperfect, and observant work of autofiction that grapples with the absurdity of the New York City educational system as a substitute teacher—that, in the end, reads as an ode to the city itself
June Papers is a twenty-eight-year-old MFA grad with a felony record, “the classic young, Black and gifted American misfit.” He’s also a substitute teacher. He’s also homeless. With dreams of becoming a writer, June endures a host of trials and dilemmas as he reluctantly realizes mentoring and teaching might actually be a path forward for him.
Wings of Red is driven by June’s unique narrative style, a propulsive voice that intimately and vulnerably guides readers through the condemned external reality of a Black educator’s personal and professional world falling apart, and coming together again.
Populated by a host of true-to-life characters who are attempting to realize their dreams despite precarious professional and financial realities, Wings of Red elucidates the fallacy of the American dream while serving as a reminder of how powerful and necessary autofiction can be. Directed at students and educators but written for any audience, Wings of Red is an inspiring and poetic tour de force and an unexpectedly necessary ode to New York City that features a texture, velocity, and immediacy that speaks to the author's authentic and lived perspective.
“Told in an epistolary format of journal entries, this work of autofiction invites the reader to experience the visceral immediacy of June’s life through his clever and humorous voice." —Katherine Ouellette, WBUR
"The stylish narrative voice propels this book. Jennings’ point of view is unlike any other." —Adam Vitcavage, Debutiful, A Most Anticipated Book of 2023
James W. Jennings is a writer, artist, and educator with a BA in English from Emory University in Atlanta, and an MFA from CUNY-Brooklyn College. Originally from Hartford, Connecticut, James worked for many years as a basketball coach, substitute teacher, dean of students, and English teacher within the NYC Department of Education and on Martha’s Vineyard in the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School. James is currently promoting his novel Wings of Red, preparing his 2024 Inspirations Tour, and painting in his living room in the Highlands.
Lynne Tillman is a novelist, short story writer, and cultural critic. Her novels are Haunted Houses; Motion Sickness; Cast in Doubt; No Lease on Life, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; American Genius, A Comedy, and Men and Apparitions. Her nonfiction books include The Velvet Years: Warhol’s Factory 1965–1967, with photographs by Stephen Shore; Bookstore: The Life and Times of Jeannette Watson and Books & Co.; and What Would Lynne Tillman Do?, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and The Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant. Tillman is Professor/Writer-in-Residence in the Department of English at The University of Albany, and lives in New York with bass player David Hofstra.
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