Book Notification

Sidik Fofana Books In Order

Book links take you to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn money from qualifying purchases.

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Stories from the Tenants Downstairs (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon

Sidik Fofana
Sidik Fofana is a public school teacher in Brooklyn, and is a graduate of NYU’s MFA program. His work has appeared in Granta and Sewanee Review. He was named a fellow at the Center for Fiction in 2018.

It was tough for him to be a public school teacher and write “Stories From the Tenants Downstairs”. It was one of those things where he had to constantly guard his time. He might set 45 minutes aside and the entire time think about lessons he was planning or other bureaucratic things he had to do. When he first started writing the book, he’d be lucky to get 45 minutes in. Many of the word counts for the day were like 50 words to 100 words. The most was about 343 in one day. He would get discouraged because he would hear about writers getting 500 to 1,000 down in a day, or people writing four hours a day.

The only thing he was consistent with was writing each and every day. That constant thinking about it, even if it would just be for a short time, helped him parse the novel out in his head. He believes that the amount of time that you write each day does not truly matter. He always looks to heroes like Grace Paley who wrote on napkins as she made dinner. Writing does not always have to be at the desk. Especially when you are a New York City teacher, you just have to take what you can get.

“The Young Entrepreneurs of Miss Bristol’s Front Porch” was inspired by his first year of teaching and having this all-girls class of freshman and imitating the way that they talked and thought about how to portray something like that on the page. Sidik found that the vast majority of the words are standard English. In his head, it sounds very distinct and like a different style of English entirely, however the vast majority of words are standard, and it has to do with syntactical changes, and the push-pull with that is: How does he make it sound like the dialect, without overdoing it?

A word like “trying to” Sidik presented as “tryna”, which would hopefully signal the reader, without making every single word phoentic, that this was how they would speak and what it sounds like. Words like “grandmuhva” and spelling it out phonetically. Making such phonetic choices in the minority, but doing it just enough so that it would conjure up a voice in the reader’s mind.

As he wrote this story, he had his students in his head, and it wasn’t necessarily about the phrases, but the sassiness, the inadvertent insights. It is an inadvertent honesty, but it does wind up being insightful. And it is these girls who are 14 and 15, and they are naive. His biggest takeaway from writing a story like that is that at first he believed it was actually about the words, the phrases, and the word choice. But really it is more about specific words and getting things tonally accurate, and it is about the naivety of the characters more than it is about trying to spell each word out phonetically.

Sidik hopes readers get caught by a phrase or a line or open to some random page and have an arresting voice pop out at them. He also likes the idea of somebody that has not had that experience or grown up in cities or interacted with people of color to pick that book up and still connect with the human elements. He likes the idea of somebody in the middle of America that just happens to pick this book up and feels the characters aren’t like them, but can still understand their story and where they are coming from.

He thinks about all the times he’s read a book set during the 18th century or that took place on the prairie, and as a young person of color and somebody that grew up in the city, and still being enthralled, fully riveted by these stories. Sidik loves the idea of a human that reads about another human that is totally different from them and still finds that connectivity. His ideal reader is anyone that has an open mind enough to just give it a try.

“Stories From the Tenants Downstairs” is the first stand alone novel and was released in 2022. From an outstanding new literary talent, comes a lyrical and rich collection of stories about a tight knit cast of characters that are grappling with their own personal challenges as the forces of gentrification threaten to upend their life as they know it.

At Banneker Terrace, a Harlem high rise, everyone knows everyone, or at least knows of them. Longtime tenants’ lives get entangled together in the ups and downs of the day-to-day, for better or for worse. The neighbors in the unit next door are family or friends, enterprising business partners or childhood rivals. Harlem is home, in other words. However the rent is due, and the clock of gentrification, which is never too far from anybody’s mind, ticks louder now than it ever has.

Sidik Fofana, in eight interconnected stories, conjures a residential community under pressure. In apartment 6B, there is Swan, whose excitement about his buddy’s release from prison jeopardizes the life he’s been attempting to lead. In 14D, Mimi hustles to raise the kid that she had with Swan, while doing hair on the side and waitressing at Roscoe’s. In 21J, is Quanneisha B. Miles, is an ex-gymnast with a good education that wishes she was able to leave Banneker permanently, however she cannot quite escape the gravitational pull of the building.

We root for this tight-knit cast of characters while they weave in and out of each other’s narratives, working hard to escape their pasts and blaze new paths forward both for themselves and the people that they love. The whole time we brace, as they do, for the challenges of a quickly shifting future.

This book is full of truth and tenderness. The voices of the residents of Banneker Terrace echo and linger well after the final page has been turned.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Sidik Fofana

Leave a Reply