Chain Gang All Stars


*Finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction*
*One of the New York Times’ Top Ten Books of the Year*
*Winner of the ALA Alex Award*
*Finalist for the Goodreads Choice Awards*
*Longlisted for the New American Voices Awards*
*Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize*
*Longlisted for the Aspen Words Literary Prize*
*Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction*
*Longlisted for the Dublin Literary Prize*

Named A Best Book of the Year by:
New York Times Book Review, NPR, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Elle, Esquire, the New York Public Library, Goodreads, Book Riot, Polygon, Financial Times, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Shelf Awareness, Readers Digest, Electric Literature, WBEZ’s Nerdette, The Globe and Mail, The Messenger, Library Journal, and The Northforker

“This book is so good. Brutal subject matter, beautiful writing. This one is from the heart.” —Stephen King

“An act of protest…in a voice that belongs only to Adjei-Brenyah, who bends the lurid into the lyrical—pretty words about hideous deeds. Some of his best fight sentences sound as if Joe Rogan had fallen into a trance and assumed the diction and rhythms of Toni Morrison. If you recoil at that unholy fusion, that’s kind of the point; and the author keeps pulling off this shock, page after page…There’s more than a little George Saunders in these high jinks…The novel is a thorough display of authorial control…As the plot careers forward, Adjei-Brenyah uses footnotes as tethers between fiction and reality, reminding us that his gladiatorial farce is just a little tragicomic leap from an extant American horror…The society in which [these characters] live defines them by their worst deeds, but the writer of this novel refuses to.” —New York Times Book Review

by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

She felt their eyes, all those executioners…

Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker are the stars of Chain-Gang All-Stars, the cornerstone of CAPE, or Criminal Action Penal Entertainment, a highly-popular, highly-controversial, profit-raising program in America’s increasingly dominant private prison industry. It’s the return of the gladiators and prisoners are competing for the ultimate prize: their freedom.

In CAPE, prisoners travel as Links in Chain-Gangs, competing in death-matches for packed arenas with righteous protestors at the gates. Thurwar and Staxxx, both teammates and lovers, are the fan favorites. And if all goes well, Thurwar will be free in just a few matches, a fact she carries as heavily as her lethal hammer. As she prepares to leave her fellow Links, she considers how she might help preserve their humanity, in defiance of these so-called games, but CAPE’s corporate owners will stop at nothing to protect their status quo and the obstacles they lay in Thurwar’s path have devastating consequences.

Moving from the Links in the field to the protestors to the CAPE employees and beyond, Chain-Gang All-Stars is a kaleidoscopic, excoriating look at the American prison system’s unholy alliance of systemic racism, unchecked capitalism, and mass incarceration, and a clear-eyed reckoning with what freedom in this country really means from a “new and necessary American voice” (Tommy Orange, The New York Times Book Review).

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah was raised in Spring Valley, New York, and now lives in the Bronx. His debut collection, Friday Black, was a New York Times bestseller, won the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award and the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, and was a finalist for the National Book  Critics Circle’s John Leonard Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize. His first novel Chain-Gang All-Stars was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction, shortlisted for the Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize and the Books Are My Bag Awards, and selected as a New York Times Top Ten Books of the Year. Adjei-Brenyah is a National Book Foundation’s ‘5 Under 35’ honoree.

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