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A I R   T R A F F I C

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From the beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning poet: an extraordinary memoir and blistering meditation on fatherhood, race, addiction, and ambition. 

2014 • memoir • paper • 272 pages • $15.95 • 9781524731762

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The long-awaited extraordinary memoir and a blistering meditation on fatherhood, class, education, race, addiction, and ambition from beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gregory Pardlo. 

Gregory Sr. is a charismatic air traffic controller at Newark International Airport, leading labor organizer and a father to two sons, bookish Greg Jr. and musical-talent Robbie. But, when “Big Greg” loses his job after the 

Professional Air Traffic Controllers Strike of 1981, he becomes a disillusioned presence in the household and a disconcerting model for young Greg’s ambitions. As Big Greg succumbs to addiction and exhausts the family's money on ostentatious whims, Greg Jr. rebels. He hustles off to boot camp at Parris Island, falls in love with a woman he follows to Denmark, drops in and out of college, and takes a job as a bar manager-cum-barfly at the family’s jazz club.


Rich and lyrical, Air Traffic follows Gregory Pardlo as he learns to be a poet, father, and teacher, as he enters recovery and hosts an intervention for his brother on national television. Throughout, Pardlo grapples with the irresistible yet ruinous legacy of masculinity he inherited from his father. This is his deeply-felt ode to Greg Sr., to fatherhood, and to the frustrating-yet-redemptive ties of family, as well as a scrupulous, searing examination of how manhood is shaped in contemporary American life.

P R A I S E   F O R   A I R   T R A F F I C 

"When Pardlo won the Pulitzer in 2015 for his collection Digest, the citation praised his 'clear-voiced poems that bring readers the news from 21st-century America, rich with thought, ideas and histories public and private.' Replace the word 'poems' with the word 'essays,' and you have an apt description of the second part of Air Traffic." - The New York Times

Air Traffic named one of "10 Books to Read This Summer" by New Jersey Monthly 

"Separate observations, anecdotes and arguments strung together in a magnificent 
and deeply affecting whole." - The Washington Post

"Poets, with their refined ability to shift vantage points and their keen talent for homing in on the quotidian details that distinguish random experiences, seem to have superpowers when it comes to autobiographical prose. Pardlo’s work is in this tradition." - The National Book Review

One of Ten Books to Read in April, 2018, BBC

"Pardlo’s memoir is a masterwork, blending personal and family history with a historicized critique on blackness and masculinity. The Pulitzer Prize–winning author uses his father’s role in the infamous air traffic controllers strike of 1981 as a point of departure, and manages to do what only great memoirs of this scale can: to tell a story about himself that is also about America, one that feels true." - One of the 10 Most Anticipated Books of Spring, 2018; Vogue

"Pardlo’s memoir powerfully illustrates one man’s attempt to reconcile the ways that family dynamics influence and infiltrate people’s lives." - Publisher's Weekly

"We often talk about Great American Novels, but Air Traffic is an excellent contender in the Great American Memoir category, an honest and touching look at what it’s like to grow up black and male in this country.” - Vulture

"Pardlo seems to be defying the odds, turning his pain into mesmerizing poetry and prose." - BookPage

"Pardlo's work is masterfully personal, with passages that come at you with the urgent force of his powerful convictions." - Kirkus Reviews

"Endlessly introspective, wide-ranging, and lucid, Pardlo's fearless inventory stuns with beautifully written, fully saturated snapshots of rich and complicated familial love." - Booklist (starred review)

"With grace and edge, Greg Pardlo’s Air Traffic refuses to satisfy itself with easy epiphanies that might populate another book. Instead, it turns over these revelations like so many mossy stones to show the live creatures beneath: the broken promises and blemished mythologies and unexpected moments of grace that compost the soil of any life. Pardlo’s voice is smart, funny, restless, ruminative, and not quite like anything you’re ever read. Change that. Read this." - Leslie Jamison

"Not just one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read—it’s an ice core drill through the complexities of American life. Each chapter illuminates how economics, class, labor relations, education, and race have shaped the American character, and the lives of the truly remarkable people here, with deep knowledge and with exquisite sentences that alternately surprise, move, and delight." - Phil Klay, author of Redeployment

"A remarkable achievement, Air Traffic is a mordantly charming, raw, comic and wise blend of intellectual sophistication and deeply honest storytelling. It is also a glorious addition to the father-son memoir genre that extends from John Stuart Mill, Edmund Gosse and V. S. Pritchett to Geoffrey Wolff and Philip Roth. Gregory Pardlo has written a classic." - Phillip Lopate

"Unflinchingly honest and audaciously vulnerable, Air Traffic is a testament to what we must live through on the path to understanding what we are living for." - Tracy K. Smith

"Air Traffic is a book about love and unlikely odds, about what we inherit and how we escape. Greg Pardlo offers something magnificent here—a deeply personal investigation that pulls back the veil on our current national (and historic) malaise... Pardlo has managed to pull a thread of truth from all the bullshit, and from that thread he has woven a life." - Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City

"Air Traffic is at once a searing memoir of a crucial labor movement defeat, and a moving consideration of a father's legacy—a profound reflection on both the American past and present. And with it, Pardlo shows himself a memoirist to rival the poet he already is." - Alexander Chee, author of Queen of the Night

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