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 Hill's odd first novel, previously self-published, can be read two ways: either as an advertisement for a Tony Brownstyle self- help black nationalism or as a cautionary tale on what happens when you see everything through the distorting lens of race. Something of a throwback to the angry realism of Richard Wright, Hill's straightforward, at times heavy-handed, narrative argues that rural, northeastern Louisiana in the '70s was just as racist and violent as during the Jim Crow era, which makes this story seem to exist in a time warp. Growing up in Pinesboro, Jamie Ray Griffin suffers from the forced integration of schools. At least in his all-black neighborhood no one resented his presence, or treated him with open contempt, as the students, teachers, and coaches do at his new school. While his best friend, Booger, invites the violence of his oppressors, Jamie keeps to himself, and begins to excel at football. Even so, remaining scornful of his mother's pie-in-the-sky religion, Jamie seethes with rage, waiting to leave his nightmarish town. His cousin, Eight Ball, is caned, castrated, and killed by local whites for secretly meeting with his white boss's daughter. Jamie does manage to escape on a football scholarship to a New Orleans college, but the racist teachers and coaches treat him as no more than a means to a conference championship. Railing against the ``white, racist educational system,'' Jamie ignores his studies and dreams of pro ball until a series of knee injuries hastens his decline: He ends up back in Pinesboro, chopping cotton. As subtle as a sledgehammer, Hill's polemical fiction, punctuated with lots of stilted speechmaking, is primarily addressed to black men--it's long on sociology and implied uplift, short on nuance or art.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-82259-8
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1996


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