Will You Be Mine?
His narrator is a 50-year-old African-American whose third wife, Chinita—twenty years younger—has just died after a painful bout with “the disease that keeps growing.” Caught in Washington, DC traffic and listening to talk radio as he drives toward his beach house, the narrator has the perfect audience—a sympathetic Teddy bear. His rumination is really a description of his long search for his soul mate, his earth angel. It has taken more than half of his life to find her.
His musings are poignant explorations of the full range of passion and romance. At the same time, the events take on surreal, comic and tragic tones as he negotiates his way in a society that seems obsessed with stifling and subjugating his manhood.
For the African-American male in the last half of the twentieth century, says Beckham, it is a painfully difficult challenge trying to foster a loving, tender relationship filled with passion and joy.
Within the narrator’s searches for his earth angel, he is forced to consider issues that broaden the novel’s thematic reach. His rumination is finally a reflection on the African-American male’s ironic role in twentieth century America, where absurd stereotyping and subjugation diminish prospects for personal fulfillment.
African-American male characters disappear with alarming frequency. His beloved Yo-Yo dies from a mysterious powder produced in the plastics shop where he works. Many of his school mates go to prison or die in the war waged against “the tiny Asian nation.” Two of the other three black men in his college class disappear from campus. Darnel, the brilliant actor, never gets a role in the plays produced on campus, and Kwame, the African student loses his mind and is sent back to Nigeria.
Runner Mack is the compelling story of young Henry Adams’ road to self-discovery through his encounter and friendship with Runner Mack, a self-styled black militant.
Henry Adams’ desire to make the Stars’ baseball team, for which he is well-qualified, symbolizes the larger black struggle first to enter and then to participate with dignity in mainstream American society. His transformation symbolizes the impact of black consciousness on millions of other African Americans.
On its most surrealistic level, Runner Mack touches on the recurring patterns in black history: events symbolic of the slave auction (Henry Adam’s interview), the Underground Railroad (Henry’s subway ride), the forced separation of families (the invasion of men in goggles), and the futile effort to become an American (Henry’s baseball tryout).
Rich with metaphor and symbolism, the novel portrays the “grand old game” of baseball as the symbol of America—for whites, a sanctuary where the American dream is reality, and for blacks, a nightmarish world filled with pain, chaos and frustration.
Earl “The Goat” Manigault had what it takes to become a superstar: incredible leaping ability, great timing, and unstoppable moves. He set a New York City junior high school record by scoring 52 points in one game. In high school and on the playgrounds of Harlem, he astonished opponents with his acrobatic shots, including the patented double dunk.
Although seventy-two colleges offered him scholarships, lack of discipline and bad breaks sent Manigault stumbling into a world of heroin addiction and petty crimes for three years. He succumbed to the fast lane life that sapped the lives of so many of his friends in the 1960s.
The Goat kicked the habit, however, and then returned to Harlem to start his own summer basketball league for black youth.
This inspiring story of how one man rebuilt his life is told with vivid, no-holds-barred descriptions of the harshness, humor and love in today’s inner city.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID:
“This is a book which every high school and perhaps junior high school should read.”
–Jerry Izenberg, Newark Star Ledger
“A tough, streetwise novel packed with an important message for young readers. Double Dunk is both a harsh look at the drug problem in the United States and an inspiring story of one man’s ability to overcome the problem.”
“A graphic reminder of the undeveloped potential roaming our schoolyard basketball courts.”
Mitchell Mibbs is a sensitive your black boy whose love and respect for his mother begins to wane when he is seven years old. At that age, he witnesses one of the most life-denying events a child can experience.
As he grows older, he is convinced that the security of his existence is dependent upon overcoming his mother’s cruel insensitivity. Mitchell’s allies are an old, lovable uncle, his boxer dog, Jeff, and a pair of drumsticks. His primary adversaries are a licentious, unresponsive stepfather and a family life permeated by disillusion, drink, and failure. He never knew his own father. And later he finds that his blackness is an additional handicap.
Mitchell’s life seems threatened on all sides. Some of it may be hallucinatory, some a reflection of his sanity, but the failure to gain attention, to be recognized as a human entity makes him cry out for attention. When his uncle dies and he learns of his mother’s plot to sell their old house, “the old, broken-down mansion,” Mitchell knows what he must do to affirm his existence.
My Main Mother begins and ends in an abandoned station wagon. As he sits inside reading his manuscript which documents his life, Mitchell relives his experiences in rustic Maine, in Harlem, in a Rhode Island university, and in Boston at Uncle’s funeral. It is a novel about growing up. Without a father. With a mother who is beautiful, promiscuous, avidly ambitious. In a small town in Maine. In the human jungle of New York. Growing up defiant and scared, happy and torn up. Growing up black. And growing up human.
His story is at once gothic and pastoral, humorous and tragic, real and imagined. At the end, the price has been high, but Mitchell is sure he can be ignored no longer.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID:
A fine and sensitive story…” — Publishers Weekly
“A fresh and original talent…a different kind of story… — Washington Star
“A novel of penetrating personal insight…” — A.L.A. Booklist
“A novel that is black, bittersweet and beautiful…Barry Beckham may well become one of the best novelists of the decade…” — New York Times Sunday Book Review
A novel that will haunt the reader long after he has finished it.” –Nashville Tennessean