Cover image for Everywhere you don't belong : a novel
Everywhere you don't belong : a novel
First edition.
Physical Description:
264 pages ; 22 cm
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Publisher Annotation: In this powerful, edgy, and funny debut novel about making right and wrong choices, Gabriel Bump gives us an unforgettable and lovable protagonist, Claude McKay Love. Claude is a young black man in search of a place where he can fit; born on the South Side of Chicago, he is raised by his civil rights–era grandmother, who tries to shape him into a principled actor for change. After a riot consumes his neighborhood, Claude decides to escape Chicago for another place, to go to college, to find a new life and identity. But as he discovers, there’s no escaping the people and places that made him. DEBUT NOVEL 272pp.


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"A comically dark coming-of-age story about growing up on the South Side of Chicago, but it's also social commentary at its finest, woven seamlessly into the work . . . Bump's meditation on belonging and not belonging, where or with whom, how love is a way home no matter where you are, is handled so beautifully that you don't know he's hypnotized you until he's done." --Tommy Orange, The New York Times Book Review In this alternately witty and heartbreaking debut novel, Gabriel Bump gives us an unforgettable protagonist, Claude McKay Love. Claude isn't dangerous or brilliant--he's an average kid coping with abandonment, violence, riots, failed love, and societal pressures as he steers his way past the signposts of youth: childhood friendships, basketball tryouts, first love, first heartbreak, picking a college, moving away from home.

Claude just wants a place where he can fit. As a young black man born on the South Side of Chicago, he is raised by his civil rights-era grandmother, who tries to shape him into a principled actor for change; yet when riots consume his neighborhood, he hesitates to take sides, unwilling to let race define his life. He decides to escape Chicago for another place, to go to college, to find a new identity, to leave the pressure cooker of his hometown behind. But as he discovers, he cannot; there is no safe haven for a young black man in this time and place called America.

Percolating with fierceness and originality, attuned to the ironies inherent in our twenty-first-century landscape, Everywhere You Don't Belong marks the arrival of a brilliant young talent.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Bump's astute and touching debut follows young Claude McKay Love, a black child learning to navigate contemporary Chicago's South Side after his parents' acrimonious split. Raised by his strong-willed, foul-mouthed Grandma and her best friend, a gay man named Paul, the duo are honest with Claude about his absent parents and needing to make his own way in life. As a teenager, Claude is advised by his grandma to stay far away from the Redbelters, a gang, telling him the members will never get further than the corner they're standing on. As the Redbelters gain notoriety, Grandma attempts to organize their neighbors to stand up to them, but to no avail: the neighborhood erupts in a standoff between gangs and police, forever transformed by shootings, destruction, and terror. Along with Grandma and Paul, Claude and his close friend Janice try to rebuild their lives after the violence without falling victim to despair. Hoping to leave his broken hometown behind, Claude heads to Missouri for college, where he discovers there's no way to outrun the past. Bump balances his heavy subject matter with a healthy dose of humor, but the highlight is Claude, a complex, fully developed protagonist who anchors everything. Readers will be moved in following his path to young adulthood. (Feb.)

Kirkus Review

A sharply funny debut novel that introduces an irreverent comic voice.Bump tells the story of Claude Mckay Love, a young boy who has been abandoned by his selfish parents in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago. Raised by his spirited grandmother and her close friend Paul, a lovelorn queer man who suffers tragedy after romantic tragedy, Claude chases affection in a community where yearning is everywhere but real intimacy can be hard to come by. Potential friends, like the gifted basketball player Jonah, come and go, promising affection but always frustrating Claude's hopes. "[My] life went on like that," Claude remembers, "people coming and going, valuable things left in a hurry." Grandma is determined that, despite all this, Claude make something of his life. "I'm not going to lose you. You got something special deep in there," she tells him. But when a street gang-cum-political party called the Redbelters, led by the incorrigible demagogue Big Columbus, instigates a riot after a police killing of a young boy, Claude's entire life is turned upside down. In the riot's aftermath, Claude latches onto journalism as his passion, something that might lift him out of the South Side. It takes him from Chicago to Missouri, but when an old crush and family friend turns up in his college dorm one day, Claude learns that escaping the past is easier said than done. Bump brings a manic yet reflective energy to Claude's story. By telling it in short vignettes rather than a traditional narrative, he creates striking images and memorable dialogue that vibrate with the life of Chicago's South Side. Exchanges like one between Jonah's parents and Paulover whether New York or Chicago is the mecca of basketballare genuinely hilarious. The novel is almost devoid of a real plot or anything resembling well-rounded characters and threatens to become repetitive at times. In the end, though, Bump's voice is so distinct and funny that a reader might overlook those shortcomings.A comic novel that is short on story but abundant in laughs. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

DEBUT "I want to know who I am!" exclaims Claude McKay Love in this pointedly affecting debut novel, which opens in Chicago's South Shore neighborhood. Claude is a nerdy, timid outsider, raised by a sharp-tongued grandma from the civil rights movement who will do anything, even burn her beloved Dennis Rodman cardboard cutout, to expunge Claude's unhappiness after his parents vanish, and he's aware that his family expects great things of him, though he doesn't yet know whether he can deliver. Meanwhile, he considers his options, wondering whether he should stay or leave, as any young person might. That should be enough, but the simple act of trying out choices takes on a sharper edge when you're from a community shaped by the legacy of racism and beset by police brutality and street toughs who terrorize the protagonists yet are themselves trying to understand where they belong. After a deadly riot, Claude's effort to find himself carries him to college in Missouri, where he's joined by sort-of girlfriend Janice and works on the student newspaper. Yet he can't escape being defined by others as African American, instead of just as Claude, and again flees violence with Janice toward a place they might belong. VERDICT With deft writing and rat-a-tat, laugh-until-you-gasp-at-the-implications dialog, Bump delivers a singular sense of growing up black that will resonate with readers. [See Prepub Alert, 7/1/19.]--Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal