Thursday, May 11, 2006

Book Review:Freedom In This Village...(B+)

I bought this book, Freedom In This Village (E. Lynn Harris 2005), last summer, but just recently picked it up to read it after seeing that it made it on the LAMBDA list. After several months, I have finally made it though all 462 pages. This collection of short stories, poems, novel excerpts and editorials span the years of 1979 to present, conveying the thoughts, struggles, and current advancement of Black gay men through fictional prose and non-fiction rhetoric.

Being a fan of both, I felt that most of the editorials in this compilation were long-winded and filled with blame without any true plan of advancement or concise empowering thought.

There are always exceptions.

From Beyond the Down Low: Sex And Denial In Black America (Keith Boykin 2004) scrutinized the anatomy of the newly sensationalized (although old in concept) term of "DL" or "on the down low". It gave great insight to a segment of the gay population that is hard to quantify due to the fact that the subjects in question are difficult to identify.

The fictional prose in this collection were outstanding, careful to depict varying aspects of Black gay society. From Just Above My Head (James Baldwin 1979) speaks of life as a gay male on the streets of Harlem and after the normal introduction of characters, the reader is immediately transported to a realm of consciences enamored with subtle sexuality and lined with lust. Leaving the reader yearning for more. This is relieved with a number of short stories to follow, including Foundations Of The Earth (Randel Keenan 1992) where there is not a Black gay male present in the entire short story, but does a thorough job in touching the mind's eye by lending understanding to those who do not comprehend the attraction that some Black men have towards white men.

The absence of science fiction, though saddening, represents the lack of interest of Black writers, gay or otherwise, wanting to dive into a world not able to be correlated with their own reality. From Walt Loves The Bearcat (Randy Boyd 2004) was the sole science fiction piece included in this compilation. Though noble in gesture, was a feeble attempt in practice.

Works by E. Lynn Harris bookends this collection with a non-fiction editorial that opens the collection and closes with a middle aged gay man's fictional account of his delima when trying to navigate through the digital age of "hook-ups".

An eye-opener and a true diamond in the rough, Freedom... could have added to it's uniqueness by for going a number of non-fiction works to make way for Black, gay writers who write about subjects other than homosexuality.

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