With luminous insight and fervent prose, Andre Perry’s debut collection of personal essays, Some of Us Are Very Hungry Now, travels from Washington DC to Iowa City to Hong Kong in search of both individual and national identity. While displaying tenderness and a disarming honesty, Perry catalogs racial degradations committed on the campuses of elite universities and liberal bastions like San Francisco while coming of age in America.
The essays in Some of Us Are Very Hungry Now take the form of personal reflection, multiple choice questions, screenplays, and imagined talk-show conversations, while traversing the daily minefields of childhood schoolyards and midwestern dive-bars. The impression of Perry’s personal journey is arresting and beguiling, while announcing the author’s arrival as a formidable American voice.
Andre Perry’s first collection of essays Some of Us Are Very Hungry Now is an exploration on being out of place. He splits the essays up into three different sections, “Coastland” where he is living in San Francisco, “Heartland” where he is living in Iowa City, and “Heart” where he is living inside himself. There is a great deal of commentary about being a black male in America, where you can never fit in anywhere because of the color of your skin, and if you do start to feel comfortable in a situation, it is only a matter of time before someone comes along to remind you that you should not feel comfortable.
Some of these essays are really interesting even though they ask questions more than answer them. The first essay, “Language and Other Weapons” is probably my favorite, not only because of the questions that it raises, the use of the “N-word” and the “F-word” and how the racial and homophobic slurs are used to separate and degrade people. There are no answers to these questions, but the thing that draws me to this essay more than some of the others is the structure. Perry uses a variety of voices and styles that keeps the reader off center and so that the punches Perry throws land better.
Most of Perry’s motivations in these essays are going to see bands and drinking. For the highlights brought by his essays on race and feeling out of place and how it is never comfortable to be a black man in America, the lows of him going from bar to bar, meeting friends, watching bands, and going to sleep on some ratty couch or bed (sometimes with a girl). Those stories of his life, the moments that lean toward a memoir of a poorly guided 20s, are not very interesting. I found myself thinking that I might be too old for some of these stories, that I have enough late night bar stories that I don’t need anyone else’s.
Some of these essays are really interesting, but there is too much time telling about his wild nights and his struggles with relationships (and leaving them). I do not expect him to be profound and have depth at every moment of his life, but I also think that there are so many times when I am trying to find the thread that I feel like all of it, even the important concepts and ideas, feel more like bar musings.