The autobiography of a black, asthmatic long-distance runner who led the battle to ""Free the New York 275,000"" -- the...



The autobiography of a black, asthmatic long-distance runner who led the battle to ""Free the New York 275,000"" -- the internees of the city's racially torn high schools. Reeves, who wrote this memoir at the age of 18, began his school days in a Jamaican boarding school with recognizable Dickensian features. A few years later, having learned to run, fuck, and decapitate chickens, he arrives in Brooklyn where, at age 12, he is writing ""The Brownsville Papers,"" descriptions of his ghetto home. By a fluke he makes it to Manhattan's prestigious High School of Music and Art; a few more flukes and a visceral belief in ""seizing the time"" and he's the school president and star athlete, ready to work within the system, a free-wheeling junior Martin Luther King. Confrontations with just about everyone from the militant Black Student Council, to whom he is ""Uncle Don,"" to principal and Board of Education escalate against the background of Albert Shanker's UFT teacher's strike. Over the summer he begins to read (for the first time) Malcolm X and discovers he's been a tool for a divide-and-conquer administration, a ""House Nigger."" This involves personal as well as political pain since expanded consciousness and a rich white girl friend don't mix; unable to share the inverse racism of the black militants (""I had no sense of black consciousness -- that was an American phenomenon"") he incurs the wrath of all factions but keeps on trucking -- and thinking. Another coup and he's city-wide president of the student sandbox government launching an offensive for a High School Students Bill of Rights, more than ever convinced that the analogy between the public schools and the prisons is more than metaphorically apt. Written with startling political sophistication and a fine ironic style, with various Kafkaesque ""Rules and Regulations for Teachers and Students"" appended, this is a remarkable tour of the processing system -- one which doesn't try to hide the confusion within the divided ranks of the insurgents.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 1971


Page Count: -

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1971