Red Clay Suzie


Longlisted for the Center for Fiction 2023 First Novel Prize

Inspired by true events, Red Clay Suzie is the comingofage story of Philbet Lawson, a gay, physically misshapen boy growing up in a deeply conservative family and community in the Deep South.

Fueled by tomato sandwiches and green milkshakes, and obsessed with cars, Philbet struggles with life and love as a gay boy in rural Georgia. He’s happiest when helping Grandaddy dig potatoes from the vegetable garden that connects their houses. But Philbet’s world is shattered and his resilience shaken by events that crush his innocence and sense of security; expose his misshapen chest skillfully hidden behind shirts Mama makes at home; and convince him that he’s not fit to be loved by Knox, the older boy he idolizes to distraction.

Over time, Philbet finds refuge in unexpected places and inner strength in unexpected ways, leading to a resolution in the form of a letter from beyond the grave.