Gabriel Bump’s novel “Everywhere You Don’t Belong” is for anyone seeking to under the lives in Chicago’s African-American community — the recent protests and looting, the resilience and anger, the endurance, and frustration. The novel was released earlier this year. A first novel and, on the surface, a traditional Buildungsroman as a coming-of-age story concerning a young man growing up in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood.
It has dark humor. One of the best things about the novel is that it perfectly reflects the emerging consciousness of a sensitive young man who slowly comes to get the joke, but never accepts its underpinnings in social disparity. The novel concerns the family unit formed by Claude McKay Love, a South Shore adolescent abandoned by his parents, along with his grandmother, her longtime gay friend Paul, and another abandoned child they wind up taking in, Janice.
Iconic Chicago details, especially in South Shore is filled in the bool. One of the best is the incident that serves as the last straw in his parents’ marriage. Thrilled by Michael Jordan’s return to basketball and the Bulls in 1995. The father rejects going to an African-American production of “Fiddler on the Roof” with the family.
He instead strips down to his underwear and exuberantly takes to the water at 63rd Street Beach, urging the family, “Join me!” Mother and father leave Claude as he already reflected: “And my life went on like that: people coming and going, valuable things left in a hurry.”
The staccato dialogue is wicked funny throughout — a repeated motif following any terrible incident is the line, “That’s enough culture for one day” — and gleefully profane. Yet the most astute thing about Bump’s writing is the way it suggests Claude’s emerging consciousness.