Literaryswag Book Club for May: Jason Reynolds' The Boy in the Black Suit

"Grief," Jess Row writes, "makes you temporarily invisible." This is what happens to Matt Miller when his mother dies of cancer and he returns to school. Everyone treats him like how we treat those who have just lost someone. In not knowing what to say, for fear of offending, we say very little. And often, it's this silence that works as a cruel reminder that when loved ones die, a part of the beloved dies with them. The need to recover that which was lost--and to make some money to help his father out with bills--leads Matt to work for Mr. Ray, the neighborhood mortician. At first the idea of attending funerals seems too close for comfort. But in the attendance of these funerals, Matt learns to find comfort in them: "I wasn't being a creep. Well, I sorta was, but it wasn't for no reason. I liked watching other people deal with the loss of someone, not because I enjoyed seeing them in pain, but because, somehow, it made me feel better knowing that my pain isn't only mine. That my life isn't the only one that's missing something it will never have back." In this revelation, Matt's grief--which once was his barrier--becomes his bridge. It becomes his way to connect to those other people at funerals. His way of seeing the people who have been made temporarily invisible by grief. And what Matt begins to see, in addition to the fact that there are many ways to grieve, is that grieving is a luxury of the living. The constant confrontation of death work to remind Matt of his own life, and slowly he works himself back into living life rife with possibility--with joy, pain, beauty, sorrow, love and of course Cluck Bucket chicken 🍗🍗🍗. We meet to talk about Jason Reynolds' Boy In The Black Suit and the ways grief renders us invisible, and how, in recognizing this grief in others, we find community. We meet Thursday, May 25th, 7pm The Brooklyn Circus.

Jennelle Gordon