ENOCH by Charles Raymond


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Set against a backdrop of ""sivilrites, veetnum, and king"" (Martin Luther), this is a relatively candid contemporary view of a black ghetto--from a white boy's eyes. Enoch and his parents have to adjust to different norms when Mr. Parnell, his suburban employer closing down, buys a hardware store in The Flats and moves his family into the apartment above it. The family is not of one mind--Mrs. Parnell packs up twice--and the nuances of angers, ably introduced, are restricted to social generalizations (real estate values) rather than person-to-person hostility (or the dirt of dirt poor). ""Skullcap,"" black assistant in the store, is a handy interpreter rather than a cool cat (or Tom), showing Mr. Parnell how to cut a price to keep a customer, levelling with Enoch about the street scene. But there is a boy's story here: a bicycle club (the Hubcappers) with a fair supply of inner rivalry, contending with a slightly older gang (no dope--just petty hustles) that has its own ""operation"" (window insurance, etc.). A woodsy Grandpop diverts the twelve-year-old on a camping trip only to return to shock and pain: King has been assassinated, Mr. Parnell shot in an ensuing riot. That may sound theatrical but it's done without preaching or recriminations--just honest nerves on edge and a boy uneasy of his future. Enoch would return to The Flats but Skullcap points out his dubious status--a white kid among blacks--without ruling out the possibility of future reconciliation. The characters are not stereotyped and there is no single--or simple--answer to racial tensions, even if Skullcap casts Enoch's horoscope under the sign of civil rights. It's more than competent (although some of the dialogue is quite stilted) and kids will be attracted from the first (page) fight on.

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1969
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin