Synopses & Reviews
Go deep into the heart of 1980s Texan Creole culture in this vivid, visceral novel about a gifted boy who comes of age at the crossroads of privilege and poverty, life and death.
Meet Ti John, a young boy growing up in Houston in the 1980s, the decade of Reaganomics, disco music, and the candy of choice—red Now and Laters. Raised in a Black Creole family by a voodoo-practicing father and strict Catholic mother, he is blessed with a special gift: spiritual healing. On a regular basis, a deceased ancestor visits Ti John, announcing himself with the smell of smoke and serving as a spiritual guide.
But the community Ti John belongs to isn’t easy. It turned from white and middle class to black and poor after the oil bubble burst in the 1960s, and the flood of 1977 sealed its current fate as a ghetto. Ti John struggles to remain an ordinary kid, but even with a rodeo-star father he idolizes, an overprotective mother who forbids him to play with the neighborhood “hoodlums,” and the help of supernatural guides, nothing can shield Ti John from the rough side of inner-city life. He witnesses violence and death, gets his heart broken by girls, feels the anger of his own embittered father, struggles to live up to his mother’s middle-class aspirations—all while trying to become the man he’s expected to be. Will Ti John fall prey to the bad side of life—or will he recognize and hold on to the good?
Multilayered and multigenerational, this tremendous literary debut breathes new life into the coming-of-age novel. Red Now and Laters is a poignant and uniquely American story, as memorable and flavorful as the candy itself.
"Set in Houston's South Park neighborhood, Guillory's first novel is a no-holds-barred, yet ultimately haunting (in all senses of the word), account of growing up poor, black, Creole, Catholic, smart, and smart-alecky, in an urban ghetto beset by poverty but rich in food, music, language, religion, and connections to the dark side of the spirit world. The novel opens during Houston's 1977 floods, as four-year-old Ti John's father carries him through the mud. Strong, scarred, secretive, Ti John's father is a rodeo cowboy and healer who uses otherworldly powers. Young Ti John shows signs of inheriting his father's gift when the smell of smoke announces to him the ghostly presence of ancestor Nonc Sonnier, whose unfortunate history is told in a flashback. Despite Ti John's mother's insistence on a Catholic education, he also inherits his father's close acquaintance with trouble. Guillory includes footnotes, his family tree, and passages defining the relationship between the bayou and the affluent, and between those defeated by racism and poverty and those with a chance. Secondary characters, like Father Jerome; brutal scenes, like a woman losing her baby in the storm; and razor-sharp, brazenly clever commentary, provide abrasive humor. Guillory's story provides insights simultaneously provocative, angry, and compassionate into one of America's neglected communities. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
In this impressive debut Marcus J. Guillory brilliantly weaves together the many obstacles of a young man growing into adulthood, the realities of urban life, the history of Louisiana Creole culture, the glory of the black cowboy, and the role of religion in shaping lives.
South Park, Houston, Texas, 1977, is where we first meet Ti’ John, a young boy under the care of his larger-thanlife father—a working-class rodeo star and a practitioner of vodou—and his mother—a good Catholic and cautious disciplinarian— who forbids him to play with the neighborhood “hoodlums.” Ti’ John, throughout the era of Reaganomics and the dawn of hip-hop and cassette tapes, must negotiate the world around him and a peculiar gift he’s inherited from his father and Jules Saint-Pierre “Nonc” Sonnier, a deceased ancestor who visits the boy, announcing himself with the smell of smoke on a regular basis. In many ways, Ti’ John is an ordinary kid who loses his innocence as he witnesses violence and death, as he gets his heart broken by girls and his own embittered father, as he struggles to live up to his mother’s middle-class aspirations and his father’s notion of what it is to be a man. In other ways, he is different—from his childhood buddies and from the father who is his hero.
The question throughout this layered and complex coming-of-age story is will Ti’ John survive the bad side of life—and his upbringing—and learn how to recognize and keep what is good.
About the Author
Marcus J. Guillory is one of the most talented emerging writers in America today. His short stories have been published in Outcry Magazine, Secret Attic (UK), and Dogmatika Magazine, among others. Guillory has also produced reality TV shows for E! Network and written the film Karma, Confessions & Holi. Red Now and Laters is his first novel. He currently resides in Los Angeles.