“David Nicholson, like his literary ancestors Ralph Ellison, James Alan McPherson, and Bernard Malamud, illuminates the mythic in the everyday lives of Americans whose stories are all too rarely deemed worthy of art. The peach tree in an old woman’s yard in urban Washington glows with nearly magical fruit that tempts a young man to a betrayal he knows will rot his soul. A chorus of middle-aged black men in a barber shop hold a symposium on the nature of love. James Brown and Jimi Hendrix walk Nicholson’s streets, but so, too, do anonymous heroes such as a black handyman who once pitched to Babe Ruth, a janitor struggling to maintain his dignity despite financial reverses, a disheveled beggar woman whose mere survival strikes us as a miracle. In Flying Home, David Nicholson shines his compassion and wisdom on them all.”
Eileen Pollack, author of In the Mouth and Breaking and Entering
The stories in Flying Home: Seven Stories of the Secret City, are set in an imagined Washington neighborhood much like Bloomingdale, the one I grew up in. While each story has different foreground characters, many of the stories share the same background characters.
Most of the people in these stories are ordinary working men and women—maids, taxi drivers, janitors, barbers, and handymen. The second story, “Among the Righteous,” was the first I wrote on returning to Washington after a six-year sojourn in the Midwest. I'd been away long enough to be stunned at how much the city had changed and I wanted, I think, to write about people and lives that were being swept away.
As Harper Lee put it about her hometown: “I believe there is something universal in this little world, something decent to be said for it, and something to lament in its passing.”
The phrase “the secret city” comes from W.E.B. Du Bois’s 1932 Crisis article, “The Secret City: An Impression of Colored Washington.” Much has changed since Du Bois wrote but, in many ways, black Washington remains a secret city, invisible to the whites who also inhabit it.
A former editor and book reviewer for The Washington Post Book World, David Nicholson was the founding editor of the magazine Black Film Review. He has worked as a journalist for the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News and the San Francisco and Milwaukee bureaus of the Associated Press.
He is a graduate of the University of the District of Columbia and holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop.
He lives in Vienna, Virginia, where he is at work on a biography of A.M.E. Bishop William David Chappelle and a family history/memoir, The Simonses of S Street: The Story of an American Family.