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The Graybar Hotel: Stories (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

This moving debut collection about a group of incarcerated men surprised me at every turn - one touching story follows an inmate who dials phone numbers at random, and his conversations with strangers on the outside; in another, a man discovers his cell-mate is slowly training himself to disappear; yet another examines the currency of lying when you're locked up, and how serial lying becomes an art form. Quietly heartbreaking, each story in "The Graybar Hotel" paints an honest, stark, funny, and compassionate portrait of life behind bars.

— From Lauren's Reading List

A view of the world from the inside of the bars. Graybar Hotel gives you such a sense of the mental anguish that a prisoner encounters every day. Each story will pull you in many directions. I read a few of the stories and listened to the rest on (our new independent audiobook website).  They both created a very unique experience.

— From Shane's Fiction Picks


In this stunning debut collection, Curtis Dawkins, an MFA graduate and convicted murderer serving life without parole, takes us inside the worlds of prison and prisoners with stories that dazzle with their humor and insight, even as they describe a harsh and barren existence.

In Curtis Dawkins's first short story collection, he offers a window into prison life through the eyes of his narrators and their cellmates. Dawkins reveals the idiosyncrasies, tedium, and desperation of long-term incarceration--he describes men who struggle to keep their souls alive despite the challenges they face.

In "A Human Number," a man spends his days collect-calling strangers just to hear the sounds of the outside world. In "573543," an inmate recalls his descent into addiction as his prison softball team gears up for an annual tournament against another unit. In "Leche Quemada," an inmate is released and finds freedom more complex and baffling then he expected. Dawkins's stories are funny and sad, filled with unforgettable detail--the barter system based on calligraphy-ink tattoos, handmade cards, and cigarettes; a single dandelion smuggled in from the rec yard; candy made from powdered milk, water, sugar, and hot sauce. His characters are nuanced and sympathetic, despite their obvious flaws.

The Graybar Hotel tells moving, human stories about men enduring impossible circumstances. Dawkins takes readers beyond the cells into characters' pasts and memories and desires, into the unusual bonds that form during incarceration and the strained relationships with family members on the outside. He's an extraordinary writer with a knack for metaphor, and this is a powerful compilation of stories that gives voice to the experience of perhaps the most overlooked members of our society.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781501162299
ISBN-10: 1501162292
Publisher: Scribner Book Company
Publication Date: July 4th, 2017
Pages: 224
Language: English