A teen wanders through a racially charged, dystopian New York City in this debut novel.
Writer and activist Lazarre-White writes of Warrior, a black teen questioning his place in the world in 1993. Warrior is prone to visions in which he encounters demons, a “claw,” “wolves,” and voices from the African-American diaspora. His only law is confrontation. “If there’s something you fear,” the voices tell him, “if there’s a nightmare on your heels, don’t run.” In a nightmarish echo of Holden Caulfield’s journey, Warrior wanders the city, remarking on its various characters and institutions. Police are “blue soldiers” bent on destruction of black bodies. Schools acutely focus pain and racial inequality; Warrior’s is a place where he is both underserved and vexed by well-meaning teachers. “She thinks I’m gonna tell her a damn thing about me, like I’m a damn experiment,” he says. While Warrior’s rage against systematic racism imbues the narrative, the characters lack important dimension that would allow for deeper confrontation of the issues at hand. As a protagonist, Warrior is uncomplicated and static; other characters function only to highlight his heroism. Other issues arise out of unclear mysticism and clunky, forced similes. “It was a darkness,” Lazarre-White writes, for example, “like the kind you find in dense, overgrown woods, in the Deep South.” Conclusions are too easily drawn (“he learned his true lessons through the countless books he read…the education that comes with living”), and the book never moves beyond the symbolic representation of systemic racism and bias.
These are issues that must be discussed. But while misunderstanding and violence haunt Warrior’s visions, this slim volume does not quite do justice to its subject matter.