Kindly note: The author generously provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Alfonso starts a new year a college in a deep funk. Carleton, his cousin, best friend and mentor, died of complications from AIDS over the summer, Carleton's close friend Eddie is gay-bashed in the local park, and the clinic Carleton helped found is destroyed by fire just before classes start. On top of all that, Alfonso is struggling to reconcile his own identity as a gay man of color with his father's expectations of him.
In the world of gay fiction, there seems to be a real dearth of African-american voices. Perhaps my old white male eyes just aren't seeing them, but when I stumble on a fresh (to me) author, or as in this case, one makes themselves known to me, it's almost always a pleasure.
Alfonso and his circle of friends around his own age are all in various stages of coming to terms with their sexuality or coming out, and the story follows each of them for at least art of that journey. Along the way “Sin Against the Race” also manages to talk at least a little about racism in the gay community as well as homophobia in the black community, without side-tracking the story lines.
I'm in no real position to know their “truth”, but the richly drawn characters of Alfonso and those around him seem quite believable. Regardless of race, Alfonso's situation is one many gay men can probably relate to: He's worked so hard, and given up so much, to be the person his family and friends think he should be that he risks losing himself.
While I like a lot about this book, it isn't perfect. The first few chapters, in particular, could have benefited from some tighter editing. It was confusing at times to figure out who was talking in scenes of dialog, and the point-of-view switches suddenly from one character to another. Things smooth out a little as the story progresses, or maybe I just got used to it, but if you're one of those readers who gets easily thrown by changes in point-of-view, you might not like this story.
“Sin Against the Race” is available from Amazon.