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Kashana Cauley Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

The Survivalists (2023)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Short Stories/Novellas

Kashana Cauley is an American author, television writer for The Daily Show, Pod Save on America on HBO, The Great North), and a former contributor for the New York Times. Her works have also appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic, Pitchfork, Esquire, and Rolling Stone.

What Contributes to success in the 21st century? What are the challenges of success? How do age, class, race, and location affect the odds of success in modern America? These important questions are handled with blistering wits in Kashana Cauley’s debut novel, The Survivalists.

Creating a life worth living is challenging, and high-stake enterprise is achieved against the uproar of daunting questions: where do you pledge your sanity and the few hours of the day in exchange for money? What should you do with your disposable income, if you have any? How do you kick in the standard observational dread? Through inspiration from her father, Tom Morrison once wrote, “You aren’t the work you do: you’re the person you are.” That message resonates loudly with a generation facing synchronous crises such as the economic state of insecurity, housing shortages, climate change, and state violence.

Kashana Cauley transports the reader to the expensive real estate and the impoverished citizens of hipster Brooklyn, as witnessed through the perspective of her heroine, Aretha. Despite her sticking to the American reset story, when we first meet the Black attorney, Aretha’s odds of success in all areas- financial, professional, familiar, and romantic seem to be slipping away from her grasp.

Aretha is a talented attorney who goes on a date with Aaron, a charming coffee businessman. The two have a strong bond through their mutual loss of their parents and a common experience of growing up as Blacks in a country where people of color are often mistreated. On their first date, Aretha discovers one key area of awkwardness: Aaron is still traumatized by his experience during Hurricane Sandy while she has just been assigned to a case “about avoiding government payouts for Hurricane Sandy-related property damage.”

Things get twisted when Aretha visits Aaron’s home, where he lives with two other survivalists who spend their time preparing for future apocalyptic events. They have built bunkers in the backyard and hoard years’ worth of food and guns. There are plenty of red flags along the way, and you might wonder, “Why would Aretha make such a bad decision and participate in such a living situation?” the possible explanation for such a scenario is the Big Law. If anything can drive such a talented and smart person to make dreaded personal decisions, it probably is the soul-breaking work environment- Big Law. Kashana Cauley is a former Big Law attorney, and you’d be glad she escaped from the Maze and now dedicates herself to crafting stories that make us laugh.

Against her good judgment and the warnings from Nia, Aretha falls in love with Aaron and immediately moves in with him. However, their glow of romance dims much faster before she can unpack, thanks to Aaron’s roommates. James is an alcoholic and disgraced journalist, and Brittany, the pack leader, hates Aretha. Aaron’s international trips to stock up on beans hinder their budding relationship. A new employee at Aretha’s workplace blocks her ability to partner, widening the gap between her shaky present and her imagined future. To cope with her turbulent present, Aretha starts selling spare guns with James and trains in martial arts with Britanny. The story turns dark, but the author maintains a steady pace and approaches the apocalypse preppers with curiosity rather than suspicion.

The author is an amazing joke writer, and you won’t be disappointed by the dark humor incorporated in the story to describe the dubious drive and bleakness required of a Big Law associate. There are so many catchy lines in the story. As the main character struggles to maneuver work ethics of her profession in the Big Law and the ethics of her friends- the survivalists’ unlawful activities, you cannot help but wonder- which group is doing more harm than the other? Or which group’s actions are more justifiable?

Aretha is one of the many literary characters in the 21st century negotiating the stresses and anxieties of the late millennial and Gen Z strivers. Like Edie in Raven Leilani’s “Luster,” Candance in Ling Ma’s “Severance,” and the unnamed narration in Natasha Brown’s book “Assembly,” Aretha knows too well that there’s nothing to gain climbing the corporate ladder. In her erratic journey from adherence to deviance, “The Survivalists” pokes and digs at this generational melancholy: how do you adapt to a failing society? What would you hold on to in the wake of failed dreams?

In the novel’s opening chapters, the author brings the readers close to her caustic, brilliant, lovable, and damaged protagonist and the issues Aretha later encounters in the unforgiving corporate legal world, issues with her boyfriend, and, above all, her demons. Cauley has bravely crafted all these problems Aretha encounters such that they are experienced by the readers as well. Because such issues are so personal to a character we care for, we ache too for the world’s problems that leave her in despair: the climate change crisis that inflicted PTSD on Aaron, the contempt and racism that force Aretha in her professional career and dating pool, and the fear of personal, environmental and political apocalypses that are transforming American into survivalists.

Just like Aretha, Kashana Cauley is a retired antitrust lawyer. But unlike her character Aretha, Cauley quit legal affairs not for the lawless gun runs but to balance her comedy and social commentary life. Cauley, a former writer for The Daily Show hosted by Trevor Noah, now contributes to television comedies, The New York Times, and other publications, including Twitter, where she maintains 118,000 followers in both LMAO and SMH.

As Aretha juggles the ethical ramifications of the house with her crumbling legal career, “The Survivalists” raises provocative questions about the background of gun use in America, the interaction between work and identity, and what capitalism pushes us to value. However, these periods are frequently interrupted by obligatory exposition. The result is a fractured, temperate narrative that flaunts Cauley’s acerbic wit and wholly commits to concluding what it started.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Kashana Cauley

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