book cover of Wings of Red

Wings of Red

A novel by

An inventive and stylish debut written by a Black educator, Wings of Red is a  clear-eyed, funny, imperfect, and observant work of autofiction that grapples with the absurdity of the New York City educational system as a substitute teacher—that, in the end, reads as an ode to the city itself

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.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Praise for this book

"Much like the author himself, Wings of Red is totally unique and individual, and yet finds deep points of connection and understanding. Written for the teacher and the student in us but also the brother, mother, and friend we hope to be, this is a story that breaks all the rules in the best of ways." - Mathea Morais

"Tender-hearted and tough-minded, James W. Jennings is a necessary writer for these harsh times. His novel Wings of Red records the daily life of June, a young Black man, a struggling writer, and a substitute teacher. June's consciousness reveals the contemporary moment. Wings of Red is genuine and honest, a diaristic bildungsroman through which Jennings renders June's past and present, as June seeks to understand his past and present. June's startling ingenuousness and compassionate heart is beautiful and revelatory. Written in a stunning style, demolishing cliches and stereotypes, Jennings recharges writing with flair and hope: He is an original in every sense of the word. I love Wings of Red." - Lynne Tillman

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