Corbin (No Easy Place to Be, 1989) offers a fierce exploration of love, race, and sexuality as a black screenwriter loses the man of his dreams in a terrifying maze of homophobia, self-hatred, abuse, and AIDS. Dexter, a hot new African-American writer, meets Sergio, a rich Mexican-American bilingual book publisher, on a lonely Thanksgiving when he wants nothing more than a ``quick drink, an even quicker fuck.'' But Sergio doesn't let him go so easily, and Dexter enjoys being ``wined and dined'' all over Los Angeles. Sergio further impresses Dexter when he has the guts to reveal he's HIV-positive and symptomatic. Even though Dexter casually replies, ``Oh, that?... Who isn't?'' he doesn't reveal his own positive, although asymptomatic, status yet. But soon after, Mr. Perfect begins to show flaws. He coerces Dexter into a mÇnage Ö trois, he remains closeted to everyone in his family except his heterosexual twin brother, he has no gay friends, and then his health deteriorates when he gets AIDS-induced Kaposi's sarcoma. Dexter resolves to stand by him, and hope comes when Sergio gets accepted into an experimental bone-marrow transplant procedure for twins- -they'll know in a 100 days if the transplant will give him another seven or eight years or even cure him completely. But Sergio's insistence on telling his close family he contracted AIDS from an old girlfriend, telling everyone else he has leukemia, and most reprehensibly, claiming he's paying Dexter to take care of him and ordering him around like a servant as Corbin unflinchingly describes the grueling daily care, makes Dexter a martyr if he stays and guilty if he doesn't, since even the doctor believes that Sergio can't make it without him. Easy to read, sometimes to the point of being simple—although this can't diminish the importance of this raw, honest, and brave work.

Pub Date: June 1, 1994

ISBN: 1-55583-232-6

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Alyson

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1994

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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