PRINT MATTERS: The Dirt in Our Skin

When BMX and literature collide

7 Dec 2023

Jj book cover crop

By Brian Tunney

BMX and literature go together about as well as, I don’t know, but it’s really hard to read the New Yorker while you’re rolling in a hitchhiker or digging trails, so let’s just say that BMX and literature don’t often mix. There are always exceptions though, from Andy Jenkins I Check The Mail Only When Certain It Has Arrived to Mike Daily’s Valley to Roy Christopher, who just happens to be a BMX flatland rider that has also written a handful of books ranging from hip-hop theory to sci-fi.

Writing about BMX, from a fictional point of view, that draws heavily from real-life experience is not a well traveled road though. Enter J.J. Anselmi, a Long Beach, CA based writer and musician that has written for publications such as Vice, Revolver, The A.V. Club and The New Republic. He also wrote the liner notes for the 2017 reissue of Sepultura’s classic thrash record, Chaos A.D. and plays drums in a band called Drainage.

And now, 7 years on from his debut BMX related novel, he’s back with a new project - The Dirt in Our Skin, a novel inspired by the vibe of the 2018 Jonah Hill film Mid90s, but with East Coast trail riding and building taking the place of skateboarding. Instead of the skate shop, they’re just hanging out at the Superdome studying photos of Ground Chuck and pining for a new STA. Considering the recent demise of Posh and the amazing scenes that East Coast trail riding produced over the years, the subject is prime for novelization.


"When Ryan and Jason discover the destructive beauty of freestyle BMX, it’s a definitive before-and-after moment for them. The two riders gravitate to the freedom and raw aggression of trail riding as a way of coping with their tumultuous home lives: Ryan’s domineering father and Jason's father's suicide.

The boys prove themselves within the exclusive East Coast BMX scene. They're drawn deeper into the culture when they fall in with a group of older pros who are part of a subterranean world of bisexuality and sadistic humor. As Ryan and Jason fight to preserve their relationship, they must navigate their own emerging sexuality and feelings for one another. The death-drive urge to ride massive jumps makes perfect sense to them, but life outside of riding spills over at the edges.

The Dirt in Our Skin is a coming-of-age novel and artistic tribute to an activity that’s more lifestyle than sport. It’s a book of blurred lines: between friendship and love, humor and abuse, art and sport, fiction and nonfiction, and much more."

You can enjoy a preview below and preorder the book, which is available in January of 2024, here.