"A brilliant and brilliantly different" (Kiese Laymon), wrenching and redemptive coming-of-age memoir about the difficulty of growing up in a hazardous home and the glory of finding salvation in geek culture.

Child abuse, violence, sexual violence, animal death, bullying, emotional abuse, language/slurs.

Stranded within an ever-shifting family’s desperate but volatile attempts to love, saddled with a mercurial mother mired in crack addiction, and demeaned daily for his perceived weakness, Joseph Earl Thomas grew up feeling he was under constant threat. Roaches fell from the ceiling, colonizing bowls of noodles and cereal boxes. Fists and palms pounded down at school and at home, leaving welts that ached long after they disappeared. An inescapable hunger gnawed at his frequently empty stomach, and requests for food were often met with indifference if not open hostility. Deemed too unlike the other boys to ever gain the acceptance he so desperately desired, he began to escape into fantasy and virtual worlds, wells of happiness in a childhood assailed on all sides.

In a series of exacting and fierce vignettes, Thomas guides readers through the unceasing cruelty that defined his circumstances, laying bare the depths of his loneliness and illuminating the vital reprieve geek culture offered him. With remarkable tenderness and devastating clarity, he explores how lessons of toxic masculinity were drilled into his body and the way the cycle of violence permeated the very fabric of his environment. Even in the depths of isolation, there were unexpected moments of joy carved out, from summers where he was freed from the injurious structures of his surroundings to the first glimpses of kinship he caught on his journey to becoming a Pokémon master. Sink follows Thomas’s coming-of-age towards an understanding of what it means to lose the desire to fit in—with his immediate peers, turbulent family, or the world—and how good it feels to build community, love, and salvation on your own terms.

Don't just take our word for it...

“Thomas really does accomplish the extraordinary…[He] has constructed a sort of alchemy on the page, but one born of experience, from skill and from a trust about what will end up on the other side…perhaps one of the biggest boons of Sink is its insistence that care is, above all, shared. It is everyone’s prerogative. In this way, Thomas has earned a deep bow.”
– New York Times Book Review

“For the reader, third-person narration creates a buffer to a brutal coming of age, and perhaps allows Thomas enough distance from his trauma to bravely expose the vulnerability and resilience of his youth.”
– Washington Post

“Thomas is a skilled prose stylist, and Sink is loaded with arresting imagery and insights into the eerie space between claustrophobia and freedom unique to childhood.”
– Vulture

Taste the very first page

Of all the protagonists in this story—both real and imagined—just Joey, the boy, owned an Easy Bake Oven. Owned it the way his grandfather, Popop, owned sound, like the sound of Joey’s name sliding out of smoke- black lips: “Joy!” he always said, “Joy! Come here!” Joey was timid, to put it nicely; and the Oven was purchased, with the help of Capital One, for his little sister, Mika, anyway. Joey had convinced Mika that she wanted one, and therefore, at seven, he received a gift that, through Popop’s eyes, sat scandalous in the lap of his little black man in training. But Joey used it to make cheesecake, red velvet cupcakes, blackened salmon, fried chicken, and Chilean sea bass with dirty rice. The oven itself was tiny and pink, sit- ting on a fold-out dinner tray, flimsy and flower-patterned, purchased from the Dollar General just three blocks away. And beneath the Oven Joey kept a black notebook. No one ever checked under there. Knowing he would make mis…