Thieves I’ve Known

Stories by Tom Kealey

Stories that explore and celebrate the lives of America's invisible youth


“Tom Kealey might be my favorite short story writer and this astonishing collection is long overdue.”
—Stephen Elliott, author of The Adderall Diaries 

"Tom Kealey honors these marginal and troubled young Americans with fierce honesty."
—Jane Ciabattari, NPR

"Needy is not quite the right description for the characters in Kealey's strong story collection. . . . While they are living on the edge, their powerful sense of self and duty belies their lack of funds, though nothing masks their hardscrabble life. . . . Kealey creates both characters and landscapes with a sure hand, making for a memorable collection."
—Danise Hoover, Booklist

"Thieves I’ve Known is a collection of quietly remarkable stories, timeless in their ability to reveal the extraordinary in the most seemingly ordinary of lives. Whether writing about grocery store baggers or altar boys, circus workers or amateur boxers, Tom Kealey transports us to the innermost worlds of unforgettable men and women, thanks to his keen understanding of character, his exquisite rendering of place, and his mesmerizing sentences. Thieves I’ve Known is one of the most moving, most beautifully written books I’ve read in years."
—Lysley Tenorio, author of Monstress

"A powerful collection, mythic in feel, Thieves I've Known is a book I've long anticipated from a writer I've long admired. I'm not alone. The Rumpus founder Stephen Elliott considers Kealey possibly his 'favorite short story writer.'"
—Scott Hutchins, The Rumpus

"Thieves I've Known is a collection of windows, brief glimpses into the day-to-day lives of [Tom Kealey's] characters. . . .There are no great victories here, no tragic losses. It's beauty in banality, the sublime to be culled from workaday lives. . . .[Kealey's characters] are living, breathing, believable entities."
—Glen Dallas, Sacramento Book Review

"Tom Kealey's debut introduces us to a world, and a fictional voice, which points us toward our better selves, without evading our dark side. We are lucky to have him, and to have the opportunity to hear more stories from him in the future."
—Thomas H. McNeely, The Rumpus

“One of the great strengths of this collection, which is about many things—triumph within hardship, social exclusion, basic human kindness, redemption, transposition—is the way that Kealey represents the youth and marginalized, not as victims in an unforgiving society but as real people, misunderstood, flawed, carrying their humanity on their shoulders as they actively engage and seek out community and companionship.”

Prairie Schooner

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In these wondrously strange and revealing stories, Tom Kealey chronicles the struggles and triumphs of the young and marginalized as they discover many ways of growing up.

Their names are Merrill, Omar, Shelby, Laika, Winston, and Toomey, but most people don’t see them. They are boxers in training and the children of fishermen. They are altar boys in a poverty-stricken parish. They are assistant groundskeepers and assistant camel-keepers. They travel with the circus, care for disabled siblings, steal police cars, and retrieve the stolen boots of a priest. Ranging in abode from Puget Sound, Washington, to Pamlico Sound, North Carolina, they are abandoned yet courageous and plucky children and teenagers living on the edges of society.

Thieves I’ve Known is a collection of powerful, moving stories about the lives of a redemptive and peculiar cast of young characters who become easy to know and difficult to forget.

Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction

Page count: 208 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 X 8.5


List price: $24.95

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List price: $19.95

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List price: $24.95
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Tom Kealey is the author of The Creative Writing MFA Handbook. He has taught creative writing at Stanford University since 2003.