NO ASHES IN THE FIRE by Darnell L. Moore


Coming of Age Black and Free in America
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Affecting memoir that looks back on surviving a hardscrabble childhood and learning to thrive as a queer black man.

Journalist Moore casts his debut as an open-hearted exploration of faith, fluid sexuality, and the myriad challenges of being a black American when advancement seems elusive as ever. His parents were teenagers, so he grew up among a loving, fractious extended family: “Too many people, which meant there was too much love and there were too many arguments.” The author writes powerfully about his home city of Camden, New Jersey, during an era of crack and decline following the white flight of the 1970s. “To claim love for a city so denigrated by the US media,” he writes, “is to contradict every idea Camden residents have been socialized to accept.” As a child in this rough environment, Moore was perceived as different, making him a target of neighborhood bullies, culminating in a horrific scene where they attempted to burn him alive: “The feeling of embarrassment was as overpowering as the bitter smell of the gas that emanated from my body.” As a teenager, Moore tried to present a front of masculinity while gravitating toward his few courageously out gay classmates as friends. “Queerness is magic for those brave enough to make use of it,” he writes, “but it can feel poisonous for those who have yet to give in to its power.” The author drove himself toward academic achievement, understanding the odds against him. At Seton Hall University, despite exploring both hedonistic hookups and a deepening religious faith, he still felt unsettled as to his identity until he began teaching, later becoming involved in youth programs and activism and finally coming out to his mother. “Her acceptance was more healing than any prayer,” he writes. Moore writes deftly in passages that purposefully meander to present a broad, socially engaged tableau of his experiences, though some of his observations can be repetitive.

An engaging meditation on identity and creativity within challenging settings.

Pub Date: May 29th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-56858-948-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Nation Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2018


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