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ISBN: 978-1-62557-043-7
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Categories Fiction, Novels

American Gospel

Publication Date: March 2023


During the month of June, Black Lawrence Press will donate $1 to LYRIC Center for LGBTQQ+ Youth for every copy of American Gospel sold through our website.

A low-income Baltimore neighborhood is targeted for a controversial urban renewal project—an amusement park in the theme of Baltimore itself—that forces its residents to reckon with racism, displacement, and their futures. Peter Cryer is a queer teenager who fantasizes about leaving Baltimore and the instability of his home life while also seeking a place to belong. Ruth Anne, his prickly mother, is terrorized by her estranged husband and the indecision of what to do after the wrecking ball comes through her neighborhood. Thomas, a cleric and History teacher at Peter’s school, questions his vocation in the face of the neighborhood’s destruction. These three voices braid together a portrait of a neighborhood in flux, the role of community and violence in our time, and the struggles of a very real and oft misunderstood city.


A moving triptych of a city in metamorphosis, and the three lives that are altered—hauntingly, tenderly, violently—by these changes. American Gospel is the story of Baltimore, and of how the places we call home are both our sorrow and our salvation.
—Shobha Rao

With three rich characters as his threads, Miah Jeffra weaves a flawless tapestry of a community about to be obliterated, capturing the lives of three people who are caught up in the sweep of change. They are a desperate mother, a bitter son, a doubtful priest, and the portraits Jeffra draws are wonderfully composed. His writing is sharp and powerful. His vision of the world is exact. Here is a novel worthy of everyone’s notice. A treasure.
—Jim Grimsely

Everyone in Miah Jeffra’s moving and lyrical novel American Gospel is undergoing a radical transformation—a single mother regaining her agency, a young priest discovering his true advocacy, a high school senior coming into his age—without any guarantees for the future: the very Baltimore neighborhood that gives them common ground is scheduled for demolition and oblivion. Yet somehow grief and yearning are harnessed for power and light, for hope, and Jeffra’s novel becomes nothing less than a survival guide for this terrible troubling American moment.
—Peter Gadol

Equal parts tender and fierce, Miah Jeffra’s American Gospel is an uncompromising portrait of Baltimore and the people who call it home—a portrait framed by three finely wrought characters whose voices converge into a vibrant polyphony that reminds us of the inherent beauty in our brokenness.
—Zak Salih

American Gospel is a stunningly rich and complex experience of Place. Behind the urban development plan of Baltimore’s Highlandtown neighborhood, the novel vividly immerses readers into the everyday lives of its affected residents. For each character, Jeffra’s dazzling prose evokes a longing for connection, peace, and belonging, culminating in a deep meditation on the meaning of home.
—Junse Kim

American Gospel is ambitious and fresh. I like and then despise and then like again several of the characters, which is real life. This is a complex and honest novel. Wonderful.”
—Felice Picano

About the Author

Miah Jeffra

Miah Jeffra is author of The Fabulous Ekphrastic Fantastic! (Sibling Rivalry 2020), The Violence Almanac (Black Lawrence 2021), the chapbook The First Church of What's Happening (Nomadic 2017), and co-editor, with Arisa White and Monique Mero, of the anthology Home is Where You Queer Your Heart (Foglifter 2021). Awards include the New Millennium Prize, the Sidney Lanier Fiction Prize, The Atticus Review Creative Nonfiction Prize, the Alice Judson Hayes Fellowship, Lambda Literary Fellowship, and 2019 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Outstanding Anthology. Most recent work can be seen in StoryQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, The North American Review, The Pinch, The Greensboro Review, DIAGRAMjubilat and Barrelhouse. Miah is a founding editor of Whiting Award-winning queer literary collaborative, Foglifter Press, and teaches writing and antiracist studies at Santa Clara University.

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