Far from the angry, urban tradition of Manchild comes this more subdued autobiography, tracing Gayle's passage from Newport News beginnings in a harshly fractured family through anguished successes to recent inner harmony. Caught between a churchgoing mother (here called ""the madonna"") and an aloof, highly literate father, Gayle read widely as a child (Dostoevski and Richard Wright were heroes) and challenged school authorities to the limit; ""ugly, poor, and Black,"" he nurtured fantasies of status as a writer and identified happiness with mulattoes, an obsession that lingered for years. Moving north after graduation--to first vulnerability as a Black man--he worked as an orderly in city hospitals and suffered through a dreary series of short entanglements, each followed by acute despair and self-laceration. This pattern, along with suicidal flirtations, persisted even as he enrolled in City College in the Sixties, an ""armchair warrior"" during the civil rights upheavals. A Master's degree, marriage to Rosalie, prestige jobs, and several books followed but Gayle's periodic despondencies continued until psychotherapy helped him wrestle with the demons and emerge content with a writer's ""temperament which demanded solitude, alienation,"" timely flings, and no stifling commitments. A personal revelation, then, with the bonus of professional standing attained in a few tense years, but a formal autobiography at 45 seems a bit premature. Still, this has its earnest moments and additional interest as a distinct contrast to more familiar lives marked by racism and violence.