Art Meets Life — and Death — In Brooklyn Author’s Debut Novel

Rachel Lyon has almost always lived in Brooklyn. When she was 2 1/2 years old, she and her parents took up residence in DUMBO. When she was 10, they moved to Fort Greene. She currently lives in Crown Heights and co-hosts a monthly reading series at Ditmas Park called Ditmas Lit. Next month, Ditmas Lit will celebrate its first anniversary on Feb. 28.

Another celebration is in the works for Lyon as her debut novel, “Self Portrait with Boy” will be released on Feb. 6. The book launch will take place at Books Are Magic on Feb. 5. Joyce Carol Oates has called the novel “an original and disturbing examination of the ill-defined borders between life and art.”


Cover art courtesy of Rachel Lyon

The novel centers an obsessively focused aspiring photographer named Lu Rile. Rile works three jobs to pay the bills in her crumbling artists’ warehouse in 1990s DUMBO. While artistic notoriety and old money seem to keep many of her neighbors afloat, Lu has spent over a year creating one self-portrait a day before she finally lands on something serendipitous — and devastating.

Showing the photograph of herself leaping — and in the background, her neighbor’s young son falling to his death outside her window — could transform Lu into the artist she wants to be: “serious, disciplined, honest, ruthless.” But as the boy’s death brings the tenants of her building together, Lu develops an intimate friendship with his mother Kate, and the decision of whether to unveil the photograph and destroy one of the few close connections she has haunts Lu’s every move.

Lyon will be reading at Ditmas Lit during their February anniversary event at Hinterlands Bar on Feb. 28, along with writers Matthew Daddona, Halimah Marcus and one more writer to be announced. She and co-host Sarah Bridgins, who is a resident of Ditmas Park, host the event on the third Wednesday of every month at Hinterlands Bar in Ditmas Park. The series is dedicated to showcasing emerging and established writers in all genres.

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