Blacker Than a Thousand Midnights, by Susan Straight *****

blacker than a thousand

Susan Straight is one of my favorite authors. I wish she had written more, but I suppose if you want quality, sometimes you have to sacrifice quantity.

As the parent of a young Black man, I recognize the fictional character Darnell’s dilemma: how do you play it straight while keeping it real (in other words, without playing the White man’s game to where you find yourself betraying some of your family and old loyalties)? How do you keep your friends from the neighborhood where you grew up and went to school, without landing your butt in jail right along with them? Remember that the US “justice” system is far from colorblind.

Darnell is tangible and believable. I came away feeling as if I knew him.

This is made all the more brilliant by the fact that Straight is a Caucasian woman. How dare she write in the first person as a Black man? Yet she carries it off, in my opinion, with grace and dignity. Her bio says that she grew up in an area in Riverside, California that was almost exclusively Black, so it may be that she considers herself culturally Black as well. That would explain a great deal.

Regardless of your political views, though, on race and everything else, this is strong writing, a character portrayed with immediacy and dignity. I like the way this woman writes, every single time.

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