When a mudslide strands a train, Baxter, a queer Black sleeping car porter, must contend with the perils of white passengers, ghosts, and his secret love affair
The Sleeping Car Porter brings to life an important part of Black history in North America, from the perspective of a queer man living in a culture that renders him invisible in two ways. Affecting, imaginative, and visceral enough that you’ll feel the rocking of the train, The Sleeping Car Porter is a stunning accomplishment.
Baxter’s name isn’t George. But it’s 1929, and Baxter is lucky enough, as a Black man, to have a job as a sleeping car porter on a train that crisscrosses the country. So when the passengers call him George, he has to just smile and nod and act invisible. What he really wants is to go to dentistry school, but he’ll have to save up a lot of nickel and dime tips to get there, so he puts up with “George.”
On this particular trip out west, the passengers are more unruly than usual, especially when the train is stalled for two extra days; their secrets start to leak out and blur with the sleep-deprivation hallucinations Baxter is having. When he finds a naughty postcard of two queer men, Baxter’s memories and longings are reawakened; keeping it puts his job in peril, but he can’t part with the postcard or his thoughts of Edwin Drew, Porter Instructor.
About the author
Shortlisted for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT FictionShortlisted for the Alberta Literary Award for Best FictionLonglisted for the Giller PrizeA seventeen-year-old boy, bullied and heartbroken, hangs himself. And although he felt terribly alone, his suicide changes everyone around him. His parents are devastated. His secret boyfriend's girlfriend is relieved. His unicorn- and virginity-obsessed classmate, Faraday, is shattered; she wishes she had made friends with him that time she sold him an Iced Cappuccino at Tim Hortons. His English teacher, mid-divorce and mid-menopause, wishes she could remember the dead student's name, that she could care more about her students than her ex's new girlfriend. Who happens to be her cousin. The school guidance counsellor, Walter, feels guilty - maybe he should have made an effort when the kid asked for help. Max, the principal, is worried about how it will reflect on the very Catholic school. And Walter, who's been secretly in a relationship with Max for years, thinks that's a little callous. He’s also tired of Max's obsession with some sci-fi show on TV. And Max wishes Walter would lose some weight and remember to use a coaster. And then Max meets a drag queen named Crêpe Suzette. And everything changes. Monoceros is a masterpiece of the tragicomic; by exploring the effects of a suicide on characters outside the immediate circle, Mayr offers a dazzlingly original look at the ripple effects - both poignant and funny - of a tragedy. A tender, bold work.
"In 1929, being a passenger train porter was fraught with challenges...Baxter’s own sleep deprivation is perhaps the most intriguing character of the book. It leads to hallucinations, questionable decisions, and borderline supernatural suggestions."– Kirkus Reviews