Today, we are pleased to feature a review of Self-Portrait With Boy, Rachel Lyon’s debut novel, which came out earlier this month. Our reviewer Tessa Yang writes: “With a vividly rendered setting, an emotionally turbulent narrative, and a spine-chilling dose of the paranormal, Self-Portrait with Boy has me dwelling on the dark side of creative expression and eager to see what Rachel Lyon produces next.”
Self-Portrait with Boy by Rachel Lyon
“I’ll tell you how it started. With a simple, tragic accident. The click of a shutter and a grown man’s beast-like howl.” With these opening lines, Rachel Lyon pulls us into a fast-paced and haunting narrative that dramatizes the friction between professional success and personal loyalty. When does art become exploitative? To what does the emerging artist owe her allegiance? To community? To love? To her own aspirations, and nothing else?
Lyon’s narrator, Lu Rile, is a recent art school grad living in Brooklyn in the early 90’s. She’s got big dreams and no money—a familiar combination, but rest assured, Lyon strips the starving artist cliché of all its tired romanticism. Real estate developers are closing in on Lu’s building, a ramshackle warehouse whose artist residents have been squatting for years. The landlord’s nowhere to be found. As Lu’s expenses swell (the tenants have hired a lawyer to file a suit for legal residency, and her father needs eye surgery), she finds herself working at a ritzy day school, a 24-hour Photo, and a health food store, and stealing from the latter because she still can’t afford groceries. Read more.