Cover Image: The Ones Who Don't Say They Love You

The Ones Who Don't Say They Love You

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NOLA will always be a special place. These stories of black folks of New Orleans will leave you thinking for a long time after you put the book down.
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A beautifully organized and variable collection of stories that make you fall in love with New Orleans so that, by the end, you are ready to fight for the city and its residents.
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wowowowowowowowowowowowowowowowowowowowow! this book is beautiful and I highly recomend you pick it up!
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This is a collection of short stories by Maurice Carlos Ruffin. Ruffin's first novel was a satire but these stories fully inhabit the present, even when Ruffin pulls things into the near future. These are also stories set in and about New Orleans, but not the one the tourists or wealthy in-comers see, but a New Orleans of people just getting by, of hustlers and kids and working folk. Many of the stories are vignettes, short pieces of just a page or two but for all their brevity, they didn't feel like fragments. 

Ruffin inhabits different characters with an easy grace that comes of keen observation, but he's at his best in writing from the point of view of children trying to get by in a world where they have very little control over what happens around them. A few of the stories reminded me of Jamel Brinkley's A Lucky Man and my favorite story is the one that closes out the book, about a woman trying to save her house while her neighborhood is gentrifying around her. Tip hotel housekeeping, guys!
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As usual, this collection of short stories set in New Orleans was a mixed bag, but I enjoyed most of them. Some were very short, only a few pages. One of those short ones that stood out for me was “Token”.  Written as a single sentence, this is a guide for how Black people can be deemed acceptable. It really rang true “…one of you is desirable, but more than one of you is a rebellion”. I also liked “Before I Let Go” about a woman who works multiple low-paying jobs to avoid having to sell her house. It explores the character of New Orleans and gentrification. In “Caesara Pittman, or a Negress of God” a former slave finds her own kind of justice in 1866. 

In “Ghetto University” an unemployed Black professor mugs white tourists. “I throw in a ‘whitey’ for effect, even though I know that lukewarm racial epithets hasn’t been popular since the 1970s, but how exactly does one insult white people? Hey, Casper? Fork it over, paleface? There simply isn’t a word equivalent to the N-bomb when you’re trying to make Caucasians feel uncomfortable, unless you count the most terrifying noun, my skin.”  Then he encounters some who confound him.  “But note the thick glasses, the stiffness of his gate, the comically tight high waters. In other words, this man is part of my tribe. He’s a bona fide nerd.”

“The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You” may be the story I’ll remember the longest.  An unnamed young male prostitute has a steady customer, a tourist from Idaho. He has been picking up boys on this corner for 20 years. “He got a fat neck and skin like old peaches. His wallet fat, too; that all you care about.” He’s the only john who buys him a meal after he’s through. The john offers to bring him to Idaho and let him live in a storage shed. The boy is a foster child and this sounds like a good deal to him.  Rich guy must have a big storage shed, right?

I also liked the novel “We Cast a Shadow” by this author and I would read more by him. 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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Books “in conversation” with each other are a joy to come across—even more so when you read them at the same time!

I recently finished Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s THE ONES WHO DON’T SAY THEY LOVE YOU alongside Tony Birch’s DARK AS LAST NIGHT. Stylistically, the two writers craft their short stories and prose very differently—it was the characters they enlivened, the focus they shone on lives otherwise not written about in literature, the way they captured community with such nuance and attention to detail, that I found so interesting to read in parallel.

Birch is one of my favourite #AusLit writers for the way he depicts the women in his fiction particularly—the first story in this blew me away for its ability to give so much depth to his characters, and so immediately. Bruises and silences and an indoor toilet, for example, carry more weight than needing to explain a backstory, capture class and a point in time and family history/dynamics so effortlessly.

In Ruffin’s work, it was the dialogue that completely shone, and the space it carved out for the reader to hear the New Orleanian community in all its complexities. Ghetto University and Before I Let Go were the two stories that I loved the most, particularly for the way they were able to step through these social layers Ruffin distils with such ease. Like Birch, the lives Ruffin shines the light on are those usually left off the pages—both writers use characterisation so effectively to pinpoint points in time, and place, and social stratification in its myriad forms.

Ruffin’s work also nudged me to my next read which I’m part way through and think joins this  conversation too—THE SECRET LIVES OF CHURCH LADIES. Ruffin and Philyaw were in conversation hosted by Politics & Prose recently (recording on YouTube) and it’s easily one of the best bookish chats I’ve tuned into all year! I loved the conversation about writing into community and the support and energy and drive that writers generate, that their writing is strengthened because of what works came before as much as what works will follow it. It’s a discussion abundant in good vibes and love, and I highly recommend checking it out!
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This short story collection took me a while to get into, but once I did - I really enjoyed these quirky but emotional stories. Maurice Carlos Ruffin has a wonderful voice. His prose is electric, heartbreaking, fiery, and very funny. He has a great sense of humor even when he writes about tough subjects like racism, poverty, and social class. "Ghetto University" is my favorite story. I liked how some stories were long, and some very short. It gave this collection a great balance. None of the stories felt draggy or unnecessary. All stories center around the start of the pandemic, and the setting takes place in New Orleans. I hope to read more from this author in the future. 

Thank you, Netgalley and Random House for the digital ARC.
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Stories that capture the richness and complexity of the people of New Orleans that could only be told by a native. Reading some of these stories, I found myself thinking about the tourist consumption of New Orleans and what is left in the aftermath. In certain stories the idea of tourism is on the periphery and the social commentary is nuanced. I felt sadness and longing mixed with hope and aspiration as characters attempted to navigate the challenges of their situation. However, the spirit of the people of New Orleans is undeniable and if anything can be taken from this book, it's that.
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<b>The Ones Who Don't Say They Love You</b> is a collection of short stories set in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  The main characters are all Black, but like the diaspora they come from a multitude of experiences and Ruffin is quite adept at showing the reader how distinct and special each character is.   In the title piece a young male prostitute is offered a chance to leave the streets of the Big Easy and go live in Idaho.  He appreciates that the john is upfront with him and doesn't pretend to have feelings.  There is some honor in this in that he has come into this life to feed his younger siblings and has been lied to and taken advantage of far too often.   

All of the stories are about surviving and "making a way out of no way".  Despite the characters' different hustles, there is no condemnation or morality plays.  Life just is what it is.  This wide range of stories deal with such topics as BLM, the LGBTQ+ experience, respectability politics, gentrification . . .    Also here is mention of the Covid 19 pandemic.  It was weird seeing this play out in the stories while presently living it.  I must say it felt a bit surreal.

Although <b>The Ones Who Don't Say They Love You</b> is not a satire like We Cast A Shadow, Ruffin does play around with a little irony in some of his stories like "Ghetto University" where a couple who have resorted to nefarious means to come up with their rent falls prey to another.

This story collection is clever and evocative.  Every characters reads authentic. Each story, whether 1 page or 40, is a moving experience.  Maurice Carlos Ruffin is the real f-ing deal.
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reviewed Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s debut novel We Cast A Shadow, so I was interested in reading his follow-up collection of short stories, The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You. I remembered really enjoying We Cast a Shadow, and there were a great deal of feelings and thoughts about the meanings and messages in this novel. This collection of short stories has a different message than We Cast A Shadow. The story lengths vary from standard short story length to stories less than a page long, but each of them have a great deal to say.

The backdrop of this collection is New Orleans. When I think about this city, there are many things that make it unique. The way that tourists treat it like Las Vegas (coming in to party and not much else), and how there is a definitive split in New Orleans. Post-Katrina New Orleans will never be the same as Pre-Katrina New Orleans. Most of these stories show a city that is years later still trying to recover and rebuild. This city as a setting for this collection really brings another dimension to the decisions and motivations of the characters. Many of the characters are showing the same drive to recover and rebuild, even when the means to do so no longer exist. The struggle of people of color and people without money to impact their lives and make better for themselves is a universal story, and does not need a particular setting, but having the backdrop of New Orleans give these characters another layer, as if it does not need to be told that most of these characters have lived through losing absolutely everything.

In the final story of the collection, “Before I Let Go”, the main character, Gailya, is trying to save her house in a neighborhood that is going through gentrification due to the abandonment of a great deal of the neighborhood post-Katrina. She states that the changing of her neighborhood is not just a white and black issue but a money and power issue as well. I can see the money and power theme in all of these stories, how those without are trying to get enough to get some of the power back in their lives that they lost when they lost everything in the hurricane. Some of the characters rob, some of them sell their bodies, some of them just hustle harder to try to save a little to get ahead, but the main thing all of them are doing is trying to get back some of the power that they lost when the storms came.

Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s story collection using New Orleans as a backdrop has great impact. All of these characters are desperate in a way that you feel for them and want them to turn the corner, find their luck or their power and get back to where they deserve to be. You cannot read through these stories without hoping for a good outcome for all of them, but you can also respect that Ruffin writes the stories in a way that lets you know that not everyone is successful because that is the way the true world works.

I received this as an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I'm very picky about my short story collections, but this was excellent! The sense of place was absolutely unbelievable. Any from New Orleans, that wants to go to New Orleans, or loves New Orleans should 100% pick this up.
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Individually these stories pack a punch to the gut, and together I would dare to say that this collection is masterful! I really enjoyed Ruffin's first novel, which is why I was interested in reading and reviewing this story collection. I can confidently say that all of my expectations were met or exceeded!
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The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You by Maurice Carlos Ruffin is a fascinating short story collection that provides snapshots of unique fictional lives in New Orleans. The stories are captivating, sometimes funny, sometimes touching and poignant. I especially loved Ghetto University, which features a professor who has resorted to mugging tourists as he struggles to find adequate employment. I loved the backdrop of the city and momentous events in its history, from the 1800s to 2020. Overall, a mesmerizing collection of short stories.  

Thank you One World / Random House and  NetGalley for providing this ARC.
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This is a slim but powerful collection of short stories all set in New Orleans.  In most, the protagonist is struggling with finances in a city which doesn't treat them well.  That's not to say that this is depressing because there's a strand of positivity here.  Some of the stories are more snapshots than full blown stories but that doesn't mean they won't resonate.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  A writer new to me but one I'll look for again.  Short story fans should take note.
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I appreciate the chance to read an advance copy of this book. I read only 9 stories before setting it aside, only because I don’t think I will be able to give these stories a fair evaluation at this time. I need some lighter reading. These stories are powerful and unflinching. 

I enjoy Mr. Ruffin’s writing; I recommended We Cast a Shadow to a number of people and look forward to his next book.
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A collection of short stories that are in no way enjoyable or thought provoking.  Give this book a pass.
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Maurice Carlos Ruffin returns after his fantastic and provocative debut novel "We Cast a Shadow" with a collection of several short stories that highlight life in New Orleans in "The Ones Who Don't Say They Love You". In this collection, he portrays life among individuals struggling to make it in the city. Because most of the stories are very short, one gets more of a "mood" of the characters, than investing in individuals stories/plot points. We encounter portrayals of felons trying to reintegrate into society, sex workers trying to find another line of income, the survival tactics individuals employ in order to survive, and the rise of the gig economy. Seeing COVID portrayed in some of the stories was jarring, but this is to be expected as blue collar/essential workers are most affected by it. All of these stories lend themselves to a timely and moving character-driven portrayal of life in New Orleans. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House One World for the advance reader copy in exchange for honest review.
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Maurice Carlos Ruffin wrote the memorable dystopian satire "We Cast a Shadow," and when I saw he had a book of short stories coming out, I was eager to read it. "The Ones Who Don't Say They Love You" takes the reader to New Orleans, where we jump into the lives of people living on the margins of a city ravaged by Katrina and plagued by inequality. Some stories are brief. In "Fast Hands, Fast Feet," we meet a girl without a home or anyone to look out for her. Others, like "Before I Let Go," linger a bit more and let the reader see the characters' pain -- and their joy. The one that I'll be thinking about months from now is "Ghetto University," in which a professional couple on the brink of financial ruin turn to petty crime as a way to raise some quick cash. The stories fly by, making this a great read, whether you want to sit down with the book and take it all in or pick it up and put it down, savoring the individual pieces.
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He has the range! Equally great flash fiction and regular short stories all over the map (but not literally because they're all in New Orleans) that are without fail clever, touching, or more often both. The title story is so good, "Catch What You Can" I'm obsessed with, and there's not a clunker to be found.
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This is a collection of slice of life stories, stories in which you step inside a life for a moment in time and don't always know what a final resolution will hold no matter how dire that character's situation.  And these people are all in dire situations.  I was in awe of Maurice Carlos Ruffin's novel, We Cast a Shadow.  It haunts me as will these stories.  Some of which are less than a page but which are so finely drawn you feel you've seen these people first hand.  Set in New Orleans post-Katrina and forward (there are even those addressing presentday pandemic and Black Lives Matter), the denizens of the Ninth Ward try keeping their families together, some against inhuman odds.  Whether it's a father returning home after a "stay" in Angola trying to find work or a woman doing every job possible in the gig economy in order not to lose her home that has been in her family for three generations due to escalating taxes thanks to gentrification of her neighborhood Treme, or a young tapper in the tourist section, every single story is proof of resilience and hope.  Kudos.
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