As Lie Is to Grin

As Lie Is to Grin, Simeon Marsalis's debut novel, is imbued with a constant sense of searching. David, an incoming freshman at the University of Vermont, struggles to know where he fits as a black man in the very white student body of his school. He reads articles, sifts through the archive of the student paper, searches online, looks up histories of buildings, recalls his own history, reads and re-reads American literature.

As this search unfolds, first slowly and then ferociously, David starts to unravel. He mourns the loss of his high school girlfriend, who left him because he lied about his past. He laments his unfinished, semi-autobiographical novel, excerpts of which are scattered throughout Marsalis's novel. He sees connections between things that are not connected, and starts to imagine the presence of a man in a gray suit who is not real.

This unraveling forms the crux of Marsalis's story, as David attempts to find the answer to unstated questions: What am I? Where do I belong? And how does our history explain that place?

Ultimately, As Lie Is to Grin is a story about stories: those we tell about ourselves (be they true or false), those we tell to ourselves, the ones history records (and those it chooses not to record) and the ones we read to understand ourselves. Poetic in its own way and thought provoking to its core, this slim novel from a young author marks the start of a promising career. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

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