The first page of Chris Leslie-Hynan’s debut novel could be a painful bit of historical revisionism for Portland Trail Blazers fans. In his telling, just as in real life, the Blazers’ dynastic hopes implode in a series of blown knees. But before that happens, Leslie-Hynan lets the fictional version of the team get one great accomplishment: a championship over the Miami Heat.
That may be enough to hook many Portland readers, but Ride Around Shining has broader concerns. Leslie-Hynan is focused on class, obsession, and, above all, race. Here’s his narrator’s description of a drive through gentrifying North Portland:
We came up on Alberta, a street the suburban myths of my first driving days held to be in the ghetto, and now a center of white return. All over North Portland, no corner market could breathe easy, no barbershop was safe from the visionary gentry. At first these places were just built up around, so they could stand as symbols of authenticity, but when the disharmony became deafening they give way, to become the impractical boutiques. Going west toward the new development blocks, I watched the old, worn down taco stands fade in anticipation of the gleaming new taquerias.
We’ll talk to Leslie-Hynan about Portland, the Blazers, and white fascination with black “coolness.”