De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s “Decent People”
By LARB Radio HourFebruary 3, 2023
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Kate Wolf and Eric Newman are joined by author De’Shawn Charles Winslow to speak about his novel, Decent People. The book is set in the fictional small town of West Mills, North Carolina, and takes place in 1976, when West Mill is still segregated. It focuses on a crime: the calculated murder of three siblings in their home. Marian, Marva, and Lazarus Harmon have been found dead, and there are plenty of people to suspect of having wanted to kill them, including their half-brother Lymp, whose fiancé Jo is determined to prove his innocence; Eunice, an acquaintance from church whose teenage son Marian has wronged; Savannah, who was close friends with Marva and shared a drug habit with her; and Savannah’s father, Ted, who served as the landlord of the siblings’ pediatric practice in town. Alternating perspectives between many of these characters, the novel untangles the tightly knit and interrelated stories of people in a community who know each other intimately—sometimes too intimately for comfort—and considers the ways in which the need for privacy and autonomy can corrode into secrecy, even conspiracy, as well as the harmful effects of racism and homophobia across decades.
Also, Kathryn Ma, author of The Chinese Groove, returns to recommend Gish Jen’s short story collection Thank You, Mr. Nixon.
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