Wings of Red
My name’s June. I’m a New City substitute teacher when they need me. What else is there? My lease is up tomorrow and quietly I still owe September rent. A lease for my younger readers is the price you pay for a roof over your head. I can no longer afford mine and I’m feeling like a failure but worse things have happened. My two roommates, my godbrother, and I are shooting dice in the dining room. What else? Winter’s approaching. It’s almost bubble jacket and long john season. The idea of roaming New City homeless is not something I’m looking forward to. I pick up the dice and roll. A win would be nice.
An inventive and stylish debut written by a Black educator, Wings of Red is clear-eyed, funny, imperfect, and observant work of autofiction that grapples with the absurdity of life in New York City—that, in the end, reads as an ode to the place.
June Papers is a twenty-eight-year-old MFA grad with a felony record, “the classic young, Black and gifted American misfit.” He’s also a substitute teacher. He’s also homeless. With dreams of becoming a writer, June endures a host of trials and dilemmas as he reluctantly realizes mentoring and teaching might actually be a path forward for him.
Wings of Red is driven by June’s unique narrative style, a propulsive voice that intimately and vulnerably guides readers through the condemned external reality of a Black educator’s personal and professional world falling apart and coming together again.
Populated by a host of true-to-life characters who are attempting to realize their dreams despite precarious professional and financial realities, Wings of Red elucidates the fallacy of the American dream while serving as a reminder of how powerful and necessary autofiction can be. Directed at students and educators but written for any audience, Wings of Red is an inspiring and poetic tour de force and an unexpectedly necessary ode to New York City that features a texture, velocity, and immediacy that speaks to the author’s authentic and lived perspective.