This series of powerful, intertwining stories illuminates Daley Kushner's world--the family, friends, and community that have both formed and constrained him, and his new life in San Francisco. Back home, the desert preys on those who cannot conform: an alfalfa farmer on the outskirts of town; two young girls whose curiosity leads to danger; a black politician who once served as his school's confederate mascot; Daley's mother, an immigrant from Armenia; and Daley himself, introspective and queer. Meanwhile, in another desert on the other side of the world, war threatens to fracture Daley's most meaningful--and most fraught--connection to home, his friendship with Robert Karinger.
A luminous debut, Desert Boys by Chris McCormick traces the development of towns into cities, of boys into men, and the haunting effects produced when the two transformations overlap. Both a bildungsroman and a portrait of a changing place, the book mines the terrain between the desire to escape and the hunger to belong.
Praise for Desert Boys:
"Desert Boys takes some familiar coming-of-age tropes--sensitive kid grows up a square peg in a round-hole town, breaks away for college and leaves his childhood pals behind--and refreshes them with precise observation and love of storytelling....'Mother, Godfather, Baby, Priest' is a head-spinning, technically adept piece of writing."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"A debut novel-in-stories set in the Mojave Desert that is at once deeply felt and formally bold. The voice especially, wise and vulnerable by turns, contributes to a haunted coming-of-age narrative."
"Set against the backdrop of a Mojave Desert filled with paintballs, Joshua trees, and rusted out Volkswagen buses, McCormick's debut probes topics as harsh as the desert landscape. Citizenship, class, family, love, masculinity, and war all factor into the plot....Utterly poignant and breathtakingly heartfelt, Chris McCormick's Desert Boys is a stunning debut from a promising voice in contemporary fiction."
--Lambda Literary Review
"A beautiful, and sometimes rending, debut with a certain ineffable quality that will haunt you well past the end. It may also make you consider your own place in the universe, as well as all the competing forces that fix you there."
--Refinery29 (Best Books of the Year)
CHRIS McCORMICK is the author of the debut story collection Desert Boys, winner of the 2017 Stonewall Book Award-Barbara Gittings Literature Award. Originally from the California side of the Mojave Desert, he earned his MFA at the University of Michigan, where he was the recipient of two Hopwood Awards. He is currently an assistant professor at Minnesota State University, where he's at work on his second book, a novel.