A solid, insightful debut from Comell prof and ex-Newsweek editor Williams, chronicling a young black man's political awakening at an Ivy League college during the stormy years of the early 1970's. Richard Isaac is a bookish, sensitive adolescent, permanently scarred by his father's early departure from the family and his mother's subsequent overprotectiveness. Ike's relationship with a white classmate in high school earns him no points at home, but when he leaves to attend Cornell in 1969 and finds himself suddenly swept into a maelstrom of racial tension and conflicting loyalties, culminating in the armed occupation of the university library by his brothers and sisters, Cheryl is his only comfort. Their love waxes and wanes, however, according to the pressure Ike feels to belong to the closed black society on campus, and it eventually dissolves when he can't bring himself to tell his mother how much Cheryl means to him. Subsiding tensions on campus allow him a more normal education, and he finds a new relationship with Yvonne as they scour N.Y.C. looking for traces of his father (the trail is cold). They sample the heady atmosphere in Washington together also, in the days surrounding Nixon's fall, but Ike discovers that the power and glory of life inside the Beltway isn't for him, causing another romantic riff. He renews contact with Cheryl, a return that enables him to know finally ""which way his train was running."" Powerful in detailing specific incidents of college and family life, though it loses intensity in the romantic entanglements and larger picture. Still, in light of recent interest in African-American manhood, a timely and evocative portrait of the black male experience in the formative years.