DEAD OPPOSITE by Geoffrey Douglas

DEAD OPPOSITE

The Lives and Loss of Two American Boys
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A murdered Yale student and a 15-year-old New Haven gangbanger charged with the crime are the principals in this passionate, self- consciously empathetic account of the clash between poverty and privilege. Once again Douglas (Class: The Wreckage of an American Family, 1992) delves beneath surface appearances and easy stereotypes to fashion social history from family turmoil. The media glare focused on the 1991 murder cast the boys as stark opposites. Christian Prince, a white fourth-generation Yalie, son of a Chevy Chase, Md., lawyer, was an all-American athlete and vice president of his boarding school class. James ``Dunc'' Fleming, a black member of the 'Ville posse and reputed drug dealer, sported bullet wounds in both legs from a drive-by shooting. Though obviously more familiar with the suburbs of the Princes than the urban battleground the Flemings call home, Douglas spends time with each family, sharing (and dutifully reporting) their pain. He strains to draw parallels between the boys: ``The one's posse was the other's Yale'' is the most convincing. Both the death of Christian Prince and the life of the accused--and ultimately acquitted--Dunc Fleming are portrayed, justifiably, as tragedy. Douglas rejects journalistic objectivity as ``a smug fiction,'' but his emotional involvement in the story and his indulgence in direct address (to the reader, to the dead boy) edge his narrative uncomfortably close to bathos. The book is most powerful when he steps aside and lets family and community members talk. The case worker, the victim's advocate, the school principal, and the drug dealer speak with the authority and rage of experience. They clearly communicate that if underclass youth are to say no to drugs and violence, as privileged America demands, they must be given something to say yes to. Part voyeuristic melodrama, part bleak, unstinting portrait of a society so rotted with fundamental inequity and division that rapprochement seems impossible. (b&w photos, not seen).

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 1995
ISBN: 0-8050-2686-X
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994




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