Guess and Check
a creative nonfiction/memoir
a Giron/Valdez Series for Unique Voices in Literature Book
by Thaddeus Rutkowski

To purchase a copy, please visit:
Ingram, Amazon, BN or other venues.

2018 eLit Bronze Book Award for Multicultural Fiction

2017 PEN Beyond Margins Award
2017 Before Columbus Award
2017 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award
Toasted from Guess and Check 2017 Pushcart Prize
2018 eLit Award for Multicultural Fiction
2017 Asian American Literary Award for Nonfiction
2017 Housatonic Book Award for Nonfiction


Singapore Bound

“After Raymond Carver, every writer who attempts a style that is unembellished yet full of psychological revelation and existential foreboding is naturally compared to the master of evocative minimalism. In the case of Thaddeus Rutkowski’s Guess and Check, the comparison is definitely warranted. Spare in its physical descriptions and subtle in its psychological revelations, the novel possesses a prose style that is so understated that it almost conveys a child-like manner of observing the world.”
—Cyril Wong, January 20, 2018

Click here for the complete review:
Singapore Bound review of Guess and Check

North of Oxford

“This is a rewarding read for anyone interested in family dynamics, or the challenges of coming of age and raising one’s own family in a big city, or who just wants a satisfying compilation of Rutkowski’s oeuvre. The long list of publication credits at the back of the book attests to the success of his franchise.
—Carol Wierzbicki

Click here for the complete review:
North of Oxford November 2017

See the review in Kirkus Reviews:
“A stark, engrossing, Hemingway-esque portrait of a life spent in the margins.”
Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews, January 11, 2017

See the review in Philadelphia Stories:
by Mark Danowsky
Guess and Check is a thought-provoking book, subtly nudging the reader to reflect how our choices shape our reality and lead us to our present selves. ”
Review of Guess and Check

See the review in Misfit Magazine:
Guess and Check (scroll down once the link populates on the screen)

“While Guess and Check is billed as a collection of stories you could just as easily describe it as an episodic novel in 65 vignettes. Or a fictional memoir. The narrative voice is so familiar, so intimate, it feels authentic enough to be real. As in, did you really do that at Cornell? Was your Dad really like that? Is any of this made up? Or is all of it made up? In the end, it doesn—t matter. What matter is, Guess and Check is a great read.”

See the review in A Gathering of Tribes:


A Gathering of Tribes, August 15, 2017

“Rutkowski seems to have led a life with very little fear, and has always been open to all kinds of people, places and experiences. That’s what makes him such an admirable storyteller: He doesn’'t pull any punches; tales from his life are told in such a straightforward and honest manner manner that it’s impossible not to admire them.”
—Angela Sloan

See the review in Sensitive Skin Magazine:

Sensitive Skim Magazine

“Although I daresay he didn’t originate this style, there is a form of writing where reality and dream are mixed in a special way, which has become associated with Murakami, but which has been given new twists by American authors, most notably in the way it has been given a novel direction and dynamic by Thad Rutkowski in his new collection of short stories, Guess and Check.
—Jim Feast

Advance Praise for Guess and Check:

“ . . . tough and funny and touching and harrowing.”
—John Barth

“Rutkowski is one of the most original writers in America today. Once you’ve read his low-key, continually surprising fiction, the world will look different to you.”
—Alison Lurie

“I took great joy watching this author drive home his strong and deceptively simple sentences like a craftsman, hammering nails straight and with a trained aim, working his trade. The writing strikes true and therefore beautiful. Rutkowski here builds a solid story, a kind of memoir/bildungsroman, telling of a biracial kid stunned in an emotional and psychological crossfire between his crazed and cryptic Polish father and cool-headed Asian mom. There are episodes that skirt magic realism and others, deadpan funny and straightforward, that acknowledge the magic in the simplest acts of growing up, school, love, being a victim of parents and finally a parent oneself. Recommended!”
—James Robison, author, Whiting Award winner and recipient of a Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters

“Story by story, Thaddeus Rutkowski snaps into place the puzzle of a mixed-race kid playing dumb in Guess and Check’s Appalachia. Much more than the postmodern sum of its parts, Guess and Check is spare, subtle and deadpan, Charles Simic married to Joyce Carol Oates. A beautifully constructed delicate narrative, a near dream of a book, a place ‘vulnerable to anyone who wants to break through the glass.’”
—Terese Svoboda, author of Bohemian Girl

“In a disarming style, Rutkowski has written a moving, often disturbing, yet ultimately optimistic, story full of irony and wit. With prose that is frequently stunning, Rutkowski creates a troubling world that is often absurd and sometimes beautiful. It is a vivid portrait of a world where, as for the memorable hero, things rarely mesh. Rutkowski recounts how—through intellect, cunning, a sense of humor, and just making do—the hero negotiates the dysfunctions, dangers and oddities of his existence. Guided by a gifted writer, we also learn a thing or two about negotiating the painful and the strange—and that despite it all, things might turn out well.”
—Sanjay Nigam, author of The Snake Charmer and Transplanted Man



Guess and Check is not an ordinary memoir; instead, it is a creative look at the life of a biracial boy—later seen as a young man—who adjusts with difficulty to lessons learned from the behavior of his parents and the people around him. In his rural-America world, he is an observer of dysfunction. He doesn’t identify with either of his parents—his mother is Asian and his father is Caucasian—or most of the children he meets in school. He observes the addictive pattern of his artist father and the ”alien” behavior of his Confucian mother, but he doesn’t understand what he sees. At times he is bullied, at other times ignored, so he seeks a way out.

In this series of short stories, we observe his outsider experience which doesn’t improve during his college years or his life as a young man. His quirky ideas about sex and relationships hold him back. Romantic situations usually devolve into obsessive-compulsive ”acting out.” Such insobriety leads him into dark, half-humorous encounters. Later, we see him as an employee for an unnamed company, where he feels anxiety that leads to surreal incidents, bordering between bad dreams and what might actually happen.

Through the experiences of life, he eventually learns to get along with others, even love the people around him, though these feelings don’t come easily. As a first-time father, he observes the ”alien” behavior of his child; other times, he feels as if he’s sleepwalking. Yet through it all, his journey with his own family ends on a positive note.

About the Author:
Thaddeus Rutkowski grew up in central Pennsylvania. He is the author of the books
Violent Outbursts (Spuyten Duyvil Publishing), Haywire (Starcherone Books / forthcoming from Blue Streak Press), Tetched (Behler Publications) and Roughhouse (Kaya Press). Haywire won the Members’ Choice Award, given by the Asian American Writers’ Workshop in New York. He teaches literature at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and fiction writing at the Writer’s Voice of the West Side YMCA in Manhattan, where he lives with his wife, Randi Hoffman, and their daughter, Shay. He received a fiction fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. Visit him at