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:
Guess and Check.


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

Kirkus Reviews, January 11, 2017

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