by Freddie R. Burnett

"I felt like I was attending the Black Queen's Ball, and everyone was a royal family member."

For Michael Fly, the past is a murky place. A victim of partial amnesia after a terrible beating, he has come to Chicago to stay with his uncle as he is no longer welcome in his hometown of Salem, Tennessee. Back home he was suspected of being gay and of trying to murder Milton, his vicious older brother who had sexually abused him as a child. Michael's parents have also turned their backs on him, so Chicago may be his only hope. Unfortunately, he has not left betrayal behind him. It seems Uncle Isaac may not be the caring older relative he appears to be, nor is the vivacious Ruth Ann who has captured Michael's heart as pure as she claims. Still, things may soon be looking up, since on his upcoming twenty-first birthday he is set to come into a large inheritance. The question is, will he live long enough afterward to enjoy the money?

Burnett has crafted a disturbing tale of family strife and betrayal. Set in the 1960s, the novel expertly captures not only the simmering anger among the black community of the Civil Rights era but also the predominant attitudes of the time period toward homosexuality. Hovering at the edge of the narrative is the specter of the Vietnam War, a conflict that Michael is eager to join. In many respects, this is also a coming-of-age story as the protagonist struggles with both his sexuality and his views of what it takes for him to be a man. Sad and poignant, the author's book leaves a memorable impression.

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