My books, all fiction, are The Bourgeois Anarchist (2021), The Shame of What We Are (2010), and The Big Happiness (2006, reissued 2015). Clicking on a cover image will take you to a page where you can order the book.

bourgeoisanarchist_cover_600pxThe main protagonist of The Bourgeois Anarchist is Susie Alioto, a longtime political militant. After college she spent two decades in an anarchist commune, and at age 66 her beliefs haven’t wavered. She protests with young people to demand justice and human rights. She marches for gun control, for Black Lives Matter, for action against climate change. A portrait of her special anarchist hero, Errico Malatesta, hangs on her refrigerator with an inspirational quote of his: “Impossibility never prevented anything from happening.”

Yet Susie now teaches at an expensive private school, and her life is comfortably middle-class. Her son Eric, a budding mathematician, mocks her as a “bourgeois anarchist.”

As the story opens, violence breaks out at a peaceful rally, and Susie is injured. A young woman dressed in Antifa gear rescues her, and Susie is drawn into a mysterious intrigue involving angry activists and devious capitalists, gentrification, arson, even mobsters. Cops pound on her door to demand information. Though Susie tries to hew to her principles, the true nature of justice becomes muddled, and her anarchist heroes—including the grizzled Malatesta on her refrigerator—provide no clear answer. People’s lives are involved, and she doesn’t know what to do. The dilemma escalates into an existential crisis.

In the midst of this turmoil, Susie stumbles into unexpected romance. But is the new man any more reliable than the ones who’ve failed her in the past? Meanwhile her son, the apolitical math geek, adds an offbeat and comic perspective that may offer a clue to the personal and political intrigues.

The Bourgeois Anarchist is an engrossing tale of an aging pacifist’s struggle to live her ideals as she’s enveloped by the dangers of anarchic activism and the violence of big city capitalism. —Alan Drew, author of Shadow Man and Gardens of Water

If you’ve ever wondered what you would do in a time of crisis … you’re doing it right now. Susie Alioto is doing her thing too … marching, banner-waving and trying to reconcile her anarchic principles with her non-violent beliefs, in an America where non-violence seems to be increasingly impossible. As tensions rise in her rapidly gentrifying district of Philadelphia, a motley crew of cops, mobsters, pacifists and pseudo-anarchists invade Susie’s quiet existence. No wonder she’s feeling dizzy. A thoroughly enjoyable, and surprisingly gentle, story of love, duty and politics. —Orla McAlinden, author of The Accidental Wife and The Flight of the Wren

When it comes to political convictions, our younger selves are bound to judge our older selves, and harshly. The charm of this novella is the way it presents this subject with such a light touch, such generosity, and such affection for its characters. —Simone Zelitch, author of Judenstaat, Waveland, and Louisa

It’s antifa vs artisanal coffee in this absorbing and timely Philadelphia story about the difficulties of living out one’s radical principles in the most orderly way possible. —Elisabeth Cohen, author of The Glitch

frontcovers-shameThe Shame of What We Are (novel; available in paperback and ebook) traces the life of a nerdy kid from the early 1950s into the 1960s, from age 5 to 17. I call it a “novel in pieces” because it’s deliberately fragmentary, reflecting the protagonist’s experience in a family always on the move from one temporary home to another, from East Coast to West, always seeking the elusive American dream.

Here are the gracious comments of some early readers and reviewers:

Art Dennison (denizen: an inhabitant, a resident) sets out one day on a tricycle and discovers “an open space where a house ought to be, a swatch of dirt and weeds and strange other stuff” where “clumps of grass grew to his chest, dangling brown fluff at the ends.” It’s Camden, NJ, 1951, and Art is about to turn five; nonetheless, he may just have happened upon the wilds—an African tundra minus the menace of hyenas and sharp-toothed lions. He’s hoping so, anyway, and though the missing-row-home adventure ultimately leaves him dirty and scarred, Art, the unconventional hero of Sam Gridley’s superbly well-crafted novel The Shame of What We Are, will spend the rest of his life (or what we readers learn of it, anyway) yearning for things that don’t quite exist, or hoping that what does exist might morph into something far better. —Beth Kephart, author of A Slant of Sun and The Heart Is Not a Size

With gracious, intelligent prose, Sam Gridley recreates the fragmentary way in which a child learns what it means—to him, arguably to us all—to be a human being. We feel keenly Art’s bewilderment as his circumstance so often overwhelms his understanding; feel the uncertain process through which that balance shifts; and feel too the presence of wisdom woven throughout this ultimately moving, generously constructed book. —Robin Black, author of If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This

Sam Gridley’s The Shame of What We Are carves out a new place in literature. Not a disparate collection of short stories, nor a tightly wound narrative, The Shame of What We Are threads the emotional arc of its hero, Art Dennison, into a raw, satisfying Bildungsroman. The book follows Art as he grows from a nebulously conscious little boy to the cusp of manhood, exposing the reality of the 1950s American nuclear family. Gridley’s precise command of the elements that shape Art’s life evokes Andre Dubus’s The Times Are Never So Bad in a way that allows the full thematic impact of the writing to infuse the reader. The Shame of What We Are is a wonderful book. —Shawn Kerivan, author of Name the Boy and Fiction Editor of Quay: A Journal of the Arts

A frequently comic but also heart-rending portrait of the artist as a young man, somewhat reminiscent of John Barth’s Ambrose. It’s a well-crafted depiction of 1950s life in the USA, replete with pop culture and historical references—all viewed through the eyes of a sensitive and intelligent boy as he experiences the travails of growing up in a dysfunctional family and a dysfunctional world. —Richard Moseley, Fiction Editor of Amarillo Bay

A thoughtful and highly recommended pick, not to be missed. —Midwest Book Review

Read it, you’ll want to take Art Dennison home with
you. —Sand Pilarski, The Piker Press

The Big HappiCover of The Big Happinessness (novel; available in Kindle ebook) features a brain-damaged alcoholic who calls herself Allison Wonderland, along with her eccentric, half-blind lover Leigh Berry, who speaks in his own semi-invented language. A “normal” friend of theirs, Connie Bowers, tries to guide them through their misadventures, while assorted other colorful and wacky types, including a giant imaginary ape, play supporting roles.

The book is kind of about “disabilities,” in all senses of the word; kind of about spirituality; and kind of just crazy.

One Response to “Books”

  1. […] My physical teens were a long time ago, not quite as far back as Mary Shelley or Jules Verne, but before Dune, before Le Guin. It was the tail end of what’s now considered the golden age of science fiction, dominated by Asimov and Heinlein. Asimov’s Mule became such an unforgettable malignancy that he appeared in my novel The Shame of What We Are. […]


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