SPEAK MY NAME by Don Belton


Black Men on Masculinity and the American Dream
edited by
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 Powerful reflections on the condition of a group that many are coming to regard as an endangered species: the African-American male. Faced with crime, poverty, and a seemingly invincible racist ethos, black American men have more than enough challenges to meet. It is hard enough to be human, suggest the contributors to this fine anthology, edited by journalist and novelist Belton (Almost Midnight, 1986), but that is just the beginning of their struggle. Belton finds cause for concern not only in the rising tide of urban violence and despair, but also in Pat Buchanan's declaration of cultural war at the 1992 Republican National Convention, while August Wilson observes in his foreword that ``black men are a commodity of flesh and muscle which has lost its value in the marketplace. We are left over from history.'' The men who offer their thoughts in these pages are, we hope, anything but historical jetsam, and they have much to say. Trey Ellis denounces stereotypes that have come to be accepted even within African-American society: ``If we string two sentences together, other black folks say, `Oh my, how well-spoken he is.' If we are married to the mothers of our children, Delores Williams, a black activist in Los Angeles, hands us a certificate and invites us to an awards banquet. So little is expected of us that even our half-efforts are wildly and inappropriately praised.'' Robin D.G. Kelley, a self-professed ``nice Negro,'' writes with pointed humor of having shaved his head after botching a self-trim and being immediately cast as a gangster by his liberal white neighbors, who otherwise pester him with intrusive questions about what it means to be black. David Nicholson reflects on myths of black machismo and violence, while in the most alarming and affecting piece, Bruce Morrow writes about discovering that his stepfather of three decades had become a crack addict. (For more on contemporary black men, see Darrell Dawsey, Living to Tell About It, p. TKTK.) An outstanding, urgent book.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1996
ISBN: 0-8070-0936-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1995