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The Survivalists
Cover of The Survivalists
The Survivalists
A Novel
A Phenomenal Book Club Pick
“A great and engrossing read, Kashana humanizes a way of life that is often made fun of and makes the reader understand why someone would go to such great lengths to prepare for the future, so much so she almost sold me on those Life Preserver soy bars!” —Trevor Noah
A single Black lawyer puts her career and personal moral code at risk when she moves in with her coffee entrepreneur boyfriend and his doomsday-prepping roommates in a novel that's packed with tension, curiosity, humor, and wit from a writer with serious comedy credentials

In the wake of her parents’ death, Aretha, a habitually single Black lawyer, has had only one obsession in life—success—until she falls for Aaron, a coffee entrepreneur. Moving into his Brooklyn brownstone to live along with his Hurricane Sandy-traumatized, illegal-gun-stockpiling, optimized-soy-protein-eating, bunker-building roommates, Aretha finds that her dreams of making partner are slipping away, replaced by an underground world, one of selling guns and training for a doomsday that’s maybe just around the corner. 
For readers of Victor LaValle’s The Changeling, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, and Zakiya Harris’s The Other Black Girl, The Survivalists is a darkly humorous novel from a smart and relevant new literary voice that's packed with tension, curiosity and wit, and unafraid to ask the questions most relevant to a new generation of Americans: Does it make sense to climb the corporate ladder? What exactly are the politics of gun ownership? And in a world where it’s nearly impossible for young people to earn enough money to afford stable housing, what does it take in order to survive?
A Phenomenal Book Club Pick
“A great and engrossing read, Kashana humanizes a way of life that is often made fun of and makes the reader understand why someone would go to such great lengths to prepare for the future, so much so she almost sold me on those Life Preserver soy bars!” —Trevor Noah
A single Black lawyer puts her career and personal moral code at risk when she moves in with her coffee entrepreneur boyfriend and his doomsday-prepping roommates in a novel that's packed with tension, curiosity, humor, and wit from a writer with serious comedy credentials

In the wake of her parents’ death, Aretha, a habitually single Black lawyer, has had only one obsession in life—success—until she falls for Aaron, a coffee entrepreneur. Moving into his Brooklyn brownstone to live along with his Hurricane Sandy-traumatized, illegal-gun-stockpiling, optimized-soy-protein-eating, bunker-building roommates, Aretha finds that her dreams of making partner are slipping away, replaced by an underground world, one of selling guns and training for a doomsday that’s maybe just around the corner. 
For readers of Victor LaValle’s The Changeling, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, and Zakiya Harris’s The Other Black Girl, The Survivalists is a darkly humorous novel from a smart and relevant new literary voice that's packed with tension, curiosity and wit, and unafraid to ask the questions most relevant to a new generation of Americans: Does it make sense to climb the corporate ladder? What exactly are the politics of gun ownership? And in a world where it’s nearly impossible for young people to earn enough money to afford stable housing, what does it take in order to survive?
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About the Author-
  • Kashana Cauley is a former Midtown antitrust lawyer and Brooklyn resident. She is a writer for the Fox comedy The Great North, a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and a GQ contributor. She’s written for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and Pod Save America on HBO as well as The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Pitchfork, and Rolling Stone, and has published fiction in Esquire, Slate, Tin House, and The Chronicles of Now. Kashana now lives in Los Angeles.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    October 1, 2022

    In former lawyer/current TV writer Cauley's The Survivalists, perpetually single Black lawyer Aretha is laser-focused on her career until she becomes involved coffee-entrepreneur Aaron and moves in with him and his doomsday roommates, prepping for the end of the world. Mirabella's Brother & Sister Enter the Forest, whose title hints at fairytale or horror (maybe both?), is a queer coming-of-age novel about emotionally shattered Justin and his sister, Willa, who's struggling to care for him--or to leave and claim her own life. Imbued with mythic figures--the ocean-dwelling Mama Dglo, the butcher-hunting Rolling Calf--Palmer's The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter & Other Essential Ghosts plumbs the lives of two Jamaican-Trinidadian sisters in Brooklyn who find themselves at odds even as their parents' marriage becomes untethered. In Wandering Souls, London Writers Award winner Pin depicts three Vietnamese siblings struggling to survive in the UK without their parents, lost in the family's escape from Vietnam after the war (80,000-copy first printing). In Winn's In Memoriam, Henry Gaunt escapes his strong feelings for boarding-school classmate Sidney Ellwood by enlisting during World War I--but then Sidney enlists, too, and they find love amid battle.

    Copyright 2022 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 31, 2022
    TV writer Cauley’s well-crafted if schematic debut involves a New York City lawyer’s quest to make partner at her firm and find love. Aretha is a successful Black corporate attorney assigned to squash a bunch of homeowners’ insurance claims following Superstorm Sandy. Meanwhile, after countless failed dates, she meets and falls in love with coffee entrepreneur Aaron, who lives with his business partner, Brittany, in the Brooklyn house they collectively own. But once Aretha moves in, she finds out the household members, who include James, a disgraced former journalist, are stockpiling guns and making other preparations for survival, having been stirred in part by Sandy’s destruction (the business name, Tactical Coffee, ought to have been a red flag). With Aaron out of town sourcing beans, Aretha accompanies James on gun runs, but in her determination to prove her worth, she loses focus at work and starts slipping up. Cauley’s understanding of plot is impeccable and she keeps the tension taut as Aretha gets more involved with the group, but though the author lightly grapples with the politics of gun ownership, the matter is ultimately reduced to cheap thrills (Aretha, for instance, “wanted to enjoy the rush of her last trip to make money off guns”), and the characters are written to type. It’s a good story, but it should have gone straight to screenplay.

  • Kirkus

    November 15, 2022
    An ambitious Black lawyer gets sucked into the extralegal schemes of Brooklyn preppers in this first novel by a former writer for The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. Aspiring to make partner at her Midtown law firm, Aretha divides what free time she can manage between brunches with her best friend, Nia, and a weekly series of failed first dates. Until, that is, she meets Aaron, who runs Tactical Coffee, a Brooklyn-based coffee roaster and wholesaler, along with his unconventional housemates: Brittany, who single-handedly constructed a bunker in the backyard, and James, a former journalist fired from his job at the Washington Post for plagiarism. Despite these potential red flags--and repeated warnings from Nia--Aretha finds a kindred soul in Aaron: They both lost their parents at a young age, and both endorse healthy skepticism without succumbing to full-blown paranoia. But, facing an unexpected adversary at the workplace, Aretha throws herself into Tactical Coffee's behind-the-scenes operations until she finds herself entangled in the group's not-exactly-legal gunrunning. Cauley's experience as a Manhattan antitrust lawyer infuses the office scenes with authentically cutthroat competition, and her comedy-writing chops shine in hilariously succinct characterizations (Aretha is described as "a clenched fist posing as a person"; Brittany is "Angry Flo Jo"). But what really sets this debut novel apart is its finely tuned balance between extremes: humor and drama, conspiracy and reason, careful preparation and total chaos. Funny and fresh, Cauley's prose moves dynamic characters through a vivid, living New York City.

    COPYRIGHT(2022) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    November 1, 2022
    When Aretha learns that her new boyfriend's housemates have doomsday-prepper leanings, it seems quirky but understandable. Aaron took refuge atop a bureau as Hurricane Sandy's waters rose, and when his household/coffee-roasting enterprise was burglarized at gunpoint, the Black residents knew they couldn't rely on cops. Who wouldn't want to be prepared after that? Incrementally, Aretha justifies the unconventional lifestyle at Tactical Coffee as she falls in love with Aaron (and his gorgeous brownstone) and drifts from her planned trajectory--work hard, make law partner, get beyond her family tragedy. While globetrotting Aaron searches for the perfect coffee bean, Aretha's warm brunches with friend Nia are replaced by silent breakfasts and nights gun-running with her new housemates Brittany, a regimented Black woman who hand-dug the backyard bunker, and James, a disgraced white journalist with violent fantasies. This debut by former Daily Show writer Cauley is compulsively readable as it tracks Aretha's dizzying downward spiral with incisive observation, logic, and dark humor and delves into the perils of the thrill of the fringe and the limits of anyone's power to control their environment.

    COPYRIGHT(2022) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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