Thomas, Michael 1967-
Thomas, Michael 1967-
Born August 21, 1967, in Boston, MA; married; children: three. Education: Hunter College, B.A.; Warren Wilson College, M.F.A.
Man Gone Down (novel), Black Cat (New York, NY), 2007.
Michael Thomas is a writer and educator whose debut novel, Man Gone Down, chronicles the struggles against poverty and circumstance of a poor but brilliant black man living with his family in a Brooklyn ghetto. The unnamed narrator, thirty-five years old and a stagnated writer, faces the desperate situation of needing to raise several thousand dollars over a span of four days in order to pay for his son's private school tuition and secure a new apartment for the family. Stunned by the enormity of this task, the narrator reflects on his childhood as a precocious student bused to white schools in Boston, enduring terrible abuse at home and enduring confusion over his mixed ethnic heritage. Showing early talent for poetry and music, the narrator sees his early years as the beginning of living a lifetime as a "social experiment." He considers also the history of his relationship with his upper-class, white Boston wife and his role as a father of three, secure in the love of his family but upset at his inability to provide them with a stable life. Assured that his intellectual talents would enable him to transcend the bitter life of his parents, he nonetheless slips into old patterns, developing his own problems with alcoholism and self-sabotaging a promising academic career. Gripped by despair and depression, troubled by alcoholism, and shaken by racial prejudices both real and imagined, he finds himself unable to move forward constructively to find a steady job, finish his dissertation, or even live comfortably. In response to his desperate need for money, he takes jobs in construction, tries to call in old debts, and seeks to defer his own debts as much as possible. All the while, he muses on the ways in which race has both helped and hindered him. Within the confines of the narrator's life, the novel becomes "one man's desperate scramble for cash, shaped into an outsized metaphorical novel on race, class, and other American tensions," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic. Throughout the novel, the "narrator retains a note of hard-won optimism, and Thomas resolutely steers him clear of sentimentality," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Booklist reviewer Donna Seaman called Man Gone Down a "rhapsodic and piercing post-9/11 lament over aggression, greed, and racism, and a ravishing blues for the soul's unending loneliness."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of Man Gone Down, p. 30.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2006, review of Man Gone Down, p. 928.
Library Journal, October 15, 2006, Leora Bersohn, review of Man Gone Down, p. 56.
New York Times, February 4, 2007, Kaiama L. Glover, "American Dream Deferred," review of Man Gone Down.
Publishers Weekly, October 9, 2006, review of Man Gone Down, p. 34.