Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Things I Have Withheld

by Kei Miller

Acclaimed Forward Prize winner, novelist, and poet, Kei Miller’s linked collection of essays blends memoir and literary commentary to explore the silences that exist in our conversations about race, sex, and gender

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 240
  • Publication Date September 20, 2022
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6033-1
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 224
  • Publication Date September 14, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5895-6
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $26.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date September 14, 2021
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5896-3
  • US List Price $26.00

In a deeply moving, critical and lyrical collection of interconnected essays, award-winning writer Kei Miller explores the silences in which so many important things are kept. Miller examines the experience of discrimination through this silence and what it means to breach it — “to risk words, to risk truth; and through the body and the histories those bodies inherit ” the crimes that haunt them, and how the meanings of our bodies can shift as we move through the world, variously assuming privilege or victimhood.

Through letters to James Baldwin, encounters with Soca, Carnival, family secrets, love affairs, questions of aesthetics and more, Miller powerfully and imaginatively recounts everyday acts of racism and prejudice from a black, male, queer perspective. An almost disarmingly personal collection, Kei dissects his experiences in Jamaica and Britain, working as an artist and intellectual, making friends and lovers, discovering the possibilities of music and dance, literary criticism, culture, and storytelling.

With both the epigrammatic concision and conversational cadence of his poetry and novels, Things I Have Withheld is a great artistic achievement: a work of innovation and beauty which challenges us to interrogate what seems unsayable and why, “our actions, defense mechanisms, imaginations and interactions” and those of the world around us.

Praise for Things I Have Withheld:

Shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction
BOMB Magazine’s Editor’s Choice
Best Book of 2021 at Slate and Buzzfeed
Times (UK), 16 best philosophy and ideas books 2021

“Dynamic . . . examines personal and professional moments in which silence revealed a truth about race and oppression.”—New Yorker

“The Jamaican poet Kei Miller turns to nonfiction in this excellent essay collection exploring the strategic and harmful silences that occur in the family and in the world . . . There’s no didacticism or sermons here, merely curiosity and sometimes anger and a deep commitment to speaking the uncomfortable truths we’d rather not hear. A bold and daring collection.”—Tomi Obaro, Buzzfeed

“Reverent and forthright.”—BOMB Magazine

“Miller has a way of writing about widely discussed issues—race, gender, class, sexuality, nationality—that feels fresh and intimate rather than doctrinal or sentimental, and yet is instantly recognizably true . . . Without a doubt, Baldwin would be proud.”—Laura Miller, Slate

“If you’re searching for contemporary voices that echo the brilliance of classic writers such as James Baldwin, Richard Wright and, indeed, Ellison, then you must read Things I Have Withheld by Kei Miller . . . Kei’s poignant and lyrical collection of personal essays positions him as a writer of unique talent and verve.”—Huffington Post

“Kei Miller probes these silent places: what it means to be silent, to break that silence; what it means to risk one’s words and, in turn, the truth. Using his experience as a Black, Jamaican, queer man, he digs into the silence through letters to James Baldwin, Carnival, conversations with white writers, family secrets, and the experience of discrimination of the body and the histories and stories the body can tell . . . Some of the most powerful and moving moments in this powerful and moving collection is Miller performing a kind of literary ventriloquism in which thoughts and ideas and feelings are expressed without always being said.”—Chicago Review of Books

“A wonderfully challenging book that I will dip in and out of for years to come. Through brilliant storytelling it explores issues of gender, queerness, race and class. Miller’s insights and his grace are hard won. As always, this Jamaican rock-star poet’s writing is lyrical, original and engaging. I left it challenged but tanked up with a new vocabulary and an understanding of the extent to which so much is inscribed on the body.”—Ingrid Persaud, “Best Summer Books,” Guardian UK

Things I Have Withheld is necessary reading for everyone. Through its unflinching, no-holds-barred honesty to its detailed and intersectional approach to understanding contemporary constructions of race, gender, nationalism, and sexuality—Miller shares his body, his words, as a means of helping us come to terms with the uncomfortable truths that are withheld.”—World Literature Today

“Exquisitely vulnerable. Divulging searing conversations he’s self-silenced, Miller—a globe-trotting gay Black man—produces a magnificent examination of race, sexuality and identity . . . What he produces from such experiences is a wrenching record–gorgeously encapsulated–of what he’s had to withhold to survive. Filling the silence proves lifesaving.”—Shelf Awareness, starred review

“This incisive collection of short essays serves as a tabernacle for stories untold, secrets, and reflections on race and sexuality. . . . Immediately arresting and consistently poignant, Miller’s essays engage with the urgency of gripping fiction and the authenticity of stunning poetry. An important voice of the Caribbean, who should be read together with the likes of Safiya Sinclair, Oonya Kempadoo, and Colin Channer.”—Booklist

“Miller’s poetic brilliance immediately awes. [He] excels at writing words that resonate with readers, making them feel able to join him in conversation and to truly listen to the voices meeting them sometimes shyly, sometimes boldly on the page. After reading, one hopes that we will change dominant narratives about certain stories and bodies.”—Library Journal, starred review

“Thoughtful and impassioned . . . Miller reflects on race, gender, family, language, and, most pointedly, the body . . . A spirited collection from a significant voice of both fiction and nonfiction.”—Kirkus

“Entrancing . . . Miller vividly depicts the ways colonialism, racism, homophobia, and privilege have shaped his life . . . Sharp as blades, [his] words cut to the core.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Miller’s storytelling is impeccable, and his verse is arresting and beautiful. Things I Have Withheld is a remarkable contribution to literature.”—De’Shawn Winslow, author of In West Mills

Praise for Augustown:

“Brilliant and moving . . . Each observant sentence in this gorgeous book is a gem.”—New York Times Book Review 

“A vivid modern fable . . . Richly nuanced and empathetic.”—Guardian 

“A deceptive spellbinder, a metafiction so disguised as old-time storytelling that you can almost hear the crackle of home fires as it starts. But then it gets you with twists and turns, it seduces and shocks you even as it wrestles with the very nature of storytelling itself. It’s the story of women haunted by women, and of the dangers of both keeping secrets and saying too much.”—Marlon James

“The richness and heft that is lost in the making of official accounts of the world is one of Miller’s favorite themes . . . Where the poet’s touch in Augustown becomes detectable is in the novel’s epigrammatic concision and in the loping, conversational cadence of so many of its sentences . . . The barely perceptible Caribbean lilt in Miller’s prose exerts a hypnotic effect that is one of the great pleasures of Augustown.”—New Yorker 

“The structure of Augustown is pleasingly loose — a regular feature of novels written by poets, who seem to enjoy sauntering about once they’ve escaped the house of poetry . . . Miller’s poetry provides memorable line after line . . . If anything maps the way to Zion, Miller suggests, it’s this continued witness to untold history, this attention to how the glimmer of the future might be seen in the past.”—Boston Globe 

“A deeply interesting historical novel, not least because it covers matters little-known beyond Jamaica . . . . Kaia is a lovely portrait of a little boy, and Ma Taffy is only the most important and lively of the people who seem to jump from his pages. Not least of the means used to power them is their Jamaican speech, sparkling with adjective and metaphor, inventive in syntax, studded with old words from England and Africa. Readers can almost see Kei Miller having fun writing this dialogue. Indeed, Augustown feels like a novel that its author enjoyed writing. It’s certainly a serious pleasure to read.”—Washington Times 

“Miller’s novel exhales the breathy immediacy of the here and now . . . Augustown offers a compelling variation on the theme that black lives matter . . . it demands [to] be heard.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune 

Augustown is a gorgeously plotted, sharply convincing, achingly urgent novel deserving widespread attention.”—Booklist (starred review) 

“Miller captures the ways community, faith, and class create a variety of cultural microclimates.”—Kirkus (starred review)

“A rueful portrait of the enduring struggle between those who reject an impoverished life . . . and the forces that hold them in check . . . Miller infuses his lyrical descriptions of the island’s present with the weight of its history.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Miller’s new novel uses assured poetic language to create important historical intersections and strong, realistic characters . . . Highly recommended, and not just for lvoers of African and Caribbean folklore. This book will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in fiction that’s grounded in community.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“Set in the backlands of Jamaica, this is a magical and haunting novel of one woman”s struggle to rise above the constraints of history, race, class, collective memory, violence, and myth. Miller’s storytelling is moving, poetic, and inventive.”—Lisa Lucas, Page Turners for 2017, Martha Stewart Magazine 

“The language is as clear as spring water, the characters are vividly drawn.”—The Observer 

“Miller’s storytelling is superb, its power coming from the seamless melding of the magical and the everyday that gives his novel a significant fabular quality.”—The Sunday Times (London)