In Year of the Rat, an artist returns to the dystopian city of his birth to tend to his invalid mother, only to find himself torn apart by memories and longings. Narrated by this nameless figure whose rants, reveries, and Rabelaisian escapades take him on a Dantesque descent into himself, the story follows him and his mother as they share a one-bedroom apartment over the course of a year. Despite his mother’s precarious health, the lingering memories of a lost love, an incarcerated sibling, a repressed sexuality, and an anarchic inability to support himself, he pursues his dream of becoming an avant-garde artist. His prospects grow dim until a devastating death provides a painful and unforeseeable opportunity. With a voice that is poetic and profane, ethereal and irreverent, cyclical and succinct, he roams from vignette to vignette, creating a polyphonic patchwork quilt of a family portrait.




"Year of the Rat is a book that reads like a musical composition that reads like a painting. More than tell a story, it proposes a method, a way to sustain and share, in sound and images, the capacity to live, and to live beyond one’s means and beyond the accepted and expected."

Chimurenga Chronic (South Africa)

"Richardson has found a way to describe in words the inability to

understand other people—he uses dense prose that circles on itself and leaps from present to flashback, depicting a muddled mind at work...once readers enter the story it's easy to be swept into its stormy momentum, and to acknowledge the very promising start of the author's career."

Publishers Weekly

"The book is certainly unique in voice and style, but it's also frightening, ugly, dense, and borderline offensive. Even the most challenging of transgressive writers pales in comparison....Technically a novel, it will make all but the most experimental of readers throw it across a room."

 Kirkus Reviews

"Year of the Rat is an attempt to transmute the shame and tumult of obsession into something like grace...waiting isn’t an option with Year of the Rat. This is a novel that commands attention...."


Entropy Magazine

"An acute sense of the lethal and vital forces surrounding us seems to infuse the tremendous range of sentences colliding across the novel’s pages. Focused on the body and the anguish of grief, its style has shades of early Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell, Sartre’s Nausea, and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

Cleaver Magazine

 "Trust me, you've never read anything like Marc Anthony Richardson's 

Year of the Rat, and you must stop everything you're doing right now and make time for it. Gorgeous, unsparing, heartbreaking, the book is a prose poem of a testament to motherhood, to manhood, to lost 

generations, to hope itself."

 – Cristina García, author of

 Dreaming in Cuban and Here in Berlin


 "In language that is at times phantasmagoric, at times ribald, and always beautiful, Marc Anthony Richardson's debut novel astounds.  Bold, provocative, and ambitious: we have a new, indispensable

voice in American letters."

 – Micheline Aharonian Marcom, author of

Three Apples Fell from Heaven and The Mirror in the Well


"Here is the debut of a breathtaking talent, a writer of relentless intelligence and vision. Marc Anthony Richardson's writing is at once ecstatic and gritty, fierce and tender, gorgeous and as potent as a bomb."

– Carolina De Robertis, author of

The Invisible Mountain  and The Gods of Tango


 “As word-drunk as Joyce, as sharp-eyed as Ellison, Richardson has a mesmerizing voice that grabs you by the ear and won’t let go. This poignant tale of a young man’s devotion to his family, while he struggles to succeed in a surreal art world, introduces him as an important new voice.”

 – Cornelia Nixon, author of

Angels Go Naked and Jarrettsville


Marc Anthony Richardson received his MFA from Mills College in Oakland, California. He is an artist and writer from Philadelphia. Year of the Rat, his debut novel, was the winner of the 2015 Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize. In 2017, it was awarded an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, founded by Ishmael Reed; the ceremony was televised on C-SPAN at the San Francisco Jazz Center. He is the recipient of a PEN America grant, a Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright fellowship, a Vermont Studio Center residency, and was a finalist for the MacDowell Colony and the Headland Center for the Arts. His work has appeared in Callaloo, Western Humanities Review, and the anthology, Who Will Speak for America?, from Temple University Press. Currently, he teaches creative writing at Rutgers University and the

University of Pennsylvania. In 2021, he will be a writer-in-residence at Rhodes

University in Makhanda (Grahamstown), South Africa. 

MESSIAHS, his second novel, will be published Fall 2021 by FC2/University of Alabama Press. Inspired by Thomas Bernhard's YES, this winding, 170-page, poetic novel

is told in ten paragraph-long chapters.

In MESSIAHS, in a Kafkaesque America, one can assume a relative's capital sentence for holy reform, the proxy initiative, patterned after the Passion. The tale centers on two nameless lovers, a solitary woman of east Asian descent and a former state prisoner, a black man who had taken the initiative for his falsely convicted nephew, yet was "exonerated" after over two years on death row. The lovers began their affair by exchanging bodily fluids in love letters, and after the man's release, they withdraw to a remote cabin during a torrential winter, haunted by their past tragedies. Savagely ostracized by her family for years, the woman is asked by her mother to take the initiative for her brother—creating a conflict she can't share with her lover. Guilt, grief, and an otherworldly loyalty all infuse this fiercely ecstatic folktale of betrayal and self-sacrifice.




 September 27, 2016 

(book release)
Mills College

Mills Hall Living Room (with LeAnne Howe)

Oakland, California; Time: 5:30pm

 October 1, 2016
Robbie Waters Library

Scriptorium (with Doug Rice)

Sacramento, California; Time: 6pm

 Oct 3, 2016
Weller Book Works

(with Doug Rice, sponsored by Utah Humanities)
Salt Lake City, Utah; Time: 7pm

Oct 5, 2016

Subterranean Books

Saint Louis, Missouri; Time: 6:30pm

 Oct 12, 2016
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

(Historic Victorian Museum, Washington Foyer)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Time: 6pm 

Oct 23, 2016

BOK open studios

(courtesy of the artist Hollis Heichemer)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Time: 5pm 

February 10, 2017

Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP)

Conference & Book Fair (50th Anniversary)

Foundry Gallery (Off-site reading with FC2 authors)

Washington, District of Columbia; Time: 7pm

March 25, 2017

Unnameable Books

(with Vi Khi Nao)

Brooklyn, New York; Time: 6pm

April 6, 2017

(with: Kay Gabriel, Kyle Schlesinger, and Elias Rodrigues)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Time: 7:30pm

April 22, 2017
University of Pennsylvania Bookstore

(with Caren Beilin and Sam Allingham)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Time: 7:30pm

April 27, 2017

Penn Book Center

(with Caren Beilin and Raquel Salas Rivera)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Time: 6:30pm

June 4, 2017

University of California/Davis

LIVE on KDVS (90.3 FM)

(in conversation with Justin Desmangles of NEW DAY JAZZ)

Davis, California; Time: 5pm (PT) internet radio

October 14, 2017

Frank O'Hara's Last Lover

Sam's Morning Glory

(with Eléna Rivera and Cynthia Arrieu-King)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Time: 7:30pm

October 22, 2017

Before Columbus Foundation/American Book Awards

SF Jazz Center

(on C-SPAN and open to the public)

San Francisco, California; Time: 12 pm

October 30, 2017

University of Pennsylvania/Kelly Writers House

LIVE on WXPN (88.5 FM)

(with Vi Khi Nao, Raquel Salas Rivera,

Caren Beilin, and Elias Rodriques)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Time: 7pm (ET) internet radio

March 15, 2018

Dock Street Beer

Creative at the Cannery

(with Ru Freeman and Emma Copley Eisenberg)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Time: 7pm

June 26, 2018


Who Will Speak for America?/anthology release

(with various contributers)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Time: 7pm

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© 2020 by Marc Anthony Richardson

Author Photo by Frances Hwang