Aaron, a disgraced rabbi turned finance maven, lives in a historic brownstone with his journalist girlfriend and their child in a rapidly gentrifying Bed-Stuy. The tectonic shift of the neighborhood, with its influx of upwardly mobile strivers, belies the bubbling tension just below the surface. Race, police brutality, religion, and professional ambition masquerading as an ill-defined desire to “help,” all coalesce over the course of one cataclysmic day when a race riot erupts with Aaron and his family at its center. Pulled into the vortex are their religious nanny, the single father who dotes on her, and his son, along with an unhinged tenant and a smart local girl simmering with the rage and confusion of unfair treatment. Under the alternating lights of comedy and tragedy, their honest selves are revealed, offering a window not only into these characters’ lives as they play out on a dramatic stage, but also into society as a whole and what it means to be human today.
In the spirit of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, Platzer conjures a sharp-eyed but compassionate story that is empathetic to the characters who care about raising their children and finding love and meaning in their lives, but ultimately not about seeking cures to our greatest civic ills. A fearless debut, BED-STUY IS BURNING deftly wrestles with the most pressing issues of our time with unflinching focus, wisdom, and hope.
“In BED-STUY IS BURNING, Brian Platzer’s funny, socially acute intelligence combines with his empathetic heart to reveal how faith, violence and real estate speculation shape contemporary life. It is the debut of a fully mature literary voice that has the mordant wit of Franzen, the dazzling smarts of Roth, and the compassion of Tolstoy.” — Rafael Yglesias, author of A Happy Marriage and Fearless
Rights: Atria, World
BRIAN PALTZER has an MFA from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, where he studied under Alice McDermott and Steven Dixon; and a BA from Columbia, where he worked closely with Heidi Julavits and Mat Johnson. His writing has appeared often in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and The New Yorker’s Shouts and Murmurs site as well as in The New Republic, Salon, Big Big Wednesday, Avery, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. He lives with his family in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.