The stark voice of a young man who desires for a feeling of racial integrity after his world and family are stripped away and America remains, staring directly at him.
As the son of a Nigerian immigrant, Tunde experiences the shockwaves of frustration and disappointment of the American Dream. His father found his way to study at a college in Utah and brought his young wife with him. The promise of a grand start in a new country, yet the reality of the racist barricades hinder any sort of upward mobility. A string of dead-end jobs and a failed marriage turns his father bitter and resentful. This makes him think he knows the proper way to achieve success: to become “a particular kind of black man.”
The hallmark of this work is the creative manner in which Folarin tells the story. He breaks the novel up into sections by switching Tunde’s perspective. The immediate 1st person as he experiences an abusive period in his youth to the directive 2nd person that is used to speak to his naive younger self. And finally, the 3rd person when he finds himself removed emotionally from circumstances that are out of his control. These shifts are not aggravating and they don’t trip up the reader at all, but it feels like a natural representation of his evolution of growth.
Each step in his education, each move around the United States… gets Tunde closer to that turning point. The final expression of who is supposed to be. Is it the silent, yet malleable black man, the educated, strong, compassionate man, or the Nigerian-American who is biding his time in America until he is able to go back home? It may just be a combination of all three. At what point will the demand for confusing code-switching stop for this young man?
Overall, A Particular Kind of Black Man is a powerful reading experience that creates insight into the internal and external racial tensions of growing up as the son of African immigrants.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley, Simon and Schuster, and the author for an advanced copy for review.
The change in narration style is super intriguing. I’ve never seen it flipped around like that. I would think it would be disturbing at first but it sounds like it works.
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It took a bit of getting used to, but when I figured out what was going on, I just went with it.
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