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After a deployment in the Iraq War, Joseph Thomas is fighting to find his footing. Now a MD/PhD student at The University of Pennsylvania, and an emergency department tech at a hospital in North Philly, he becomes interested in the Holmesburg Prison Experiments, in which the prison conducted scientific trials on their inmates. Through this curiosity he comes to know his estranged father, who is serving time for the statutory rape of his then-teenage mother. Meanwhile, his best friend Murray, a fellow vet, judges the journey he sets out upon, while simultaneously pushing him towards a ruinous self-discovery.

Balancing single fatherhood, his studies, and long shifts at the hospital as he becomes closer than he ever imagined to his father, Joseph tries to articulate vernacular understandings of the sociopolitical struggles he recounts as participant-observer at home, against the assumptions of his more storied friends and colleagues. GOD BLESS YOU, OTIS SPUNKMEYER is a powerful examination of every day black life--of health and sex, race and punishment, and the gaps between our desires and our politics.

Joseph Earl Thomas is a writer from Frankford whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in VQR, N+1, Gulf Coast, The Offing, and The Kenyon Review. He has an MFA in prose from The University of Notre Dame and is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Pennsylvania. An excerpt of his memoir, Sink, won the 2020 Chautauqua Janus Prize and he has received fellowships from Fulbright, VONA, Tin House, and Bread Loaf. He’s writing the novel God Bless You, Otis Spunkmeyer, and a collection of stories: Leviathan Beach, among other oddities. He is an associate faculty member at The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, as well as the Director of Programs at Blue Stoop in Philadelphia.


  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (June 18, 2024)
  • Language: English
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1538740982
  • ISBN-13: 9781538740989
  • Item Weight: 1.74 pounds
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