Brother and the Dancer: A Novel

Winner of the 2012 James D. Houston Award

Winner of the 2012 James D. Houston Award, Keenan Norris’s first novel is a beautiful, gritty, coming-of-age tale about two young African Americans in the San Bernardino Valley—a story of exceptional power, lyricism, and depth. Erycha and Touissant live only a few miles apart in the city of Highland, but their worlds are starkly separated by the lines of class, violence, and history. In alternating chapters that touch and intertwine only briefly, Brother and the Dancer follows their adolescence and young adulthood on two sides of the city, the luminous San Bernardino range casting its hot shade over their separate tales in an unflinching vision of black life in Southern California.

About the James D. Houston Award
Known as a masterful writer in both fiction and nonfiction genres, James D. Houston was also a dedicated teacher and passionate promoter of emerging authors. Friends and family have established a fund to honor his memory and further his legacy. The James D. Houston Award will support publication of books by writers who reflect Jim’s humane values, his thoughtful engagement with life, and his literary exploration of California, Hawai‘i, and the West.


“This first novel works as both a beautifully written description of emotional and physical landscapes and a dreamlike chronicle of the days and dreams of adolescents coming of age.”


“Norris’s writing is meticulous and incisive. His convincing passages convey philosophic truths about the consequence of choice and the quest for self-awareness. This is not frivolous stuff, and both main characters are deep thinkers. Yet Norris never lapses into ponderous prose. His pace is elegant and unhurried, affording him time and space to tell this tenderhearted and distinctly American story. Accomplished and resonant, Brother and the Dancer is an outstanding debut.”

About the Author

Keenan NorrisKeenan Norris’ novel Brother and the Dancer is the winner of the 2012 James D. Houston Award. He teaches English and African-American Literature and helps conduct the Affirm program at Evergreen Valley College. His work has appeared in the Santa Monica, Green Mountains and Evansville Reviews, Connotation Press, Inlandia: A Literary Journey Through California’s Inland Empire and BOOM: A Journal of California. He is also the editor of Scarecrow Press’s upcoming collection of critical essays, Street Lit. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.