3 out of 4 stars
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My Only Friend and Other Stories by Herman Ray is a collection of various stories about the experiences of young African Americans in the United States. The main story, “My Only Friend,” follows the life of Michael, a young man who becomes a drug dealer like one of his friends, Ricky, who appears to lead a charmed life full of women and money. Although he enjoys the spoils of his illegal acts at first, Michael must eventually confront the dark realities of the life he has chosen. The other stories follow similar plot lines, which usually involve young Black men being exposed to harsh truths.
These stories are truly honest and gritty, as they present a reality that many people avoid seeing each day around them. The first story opens with Michael waking up in a pool of vomit, trying to figure out if the woman in his bed is dead. While most of us don’t live in ways that would lead to circumstances like this, others do, and it can be difficult for the rest of us to understand how they got there. These stories break down the walls between “them” and “us” to give readers a window into the world of African Americans growing up in America’s inner cities.
Although I really appreciated the openness of the author and the grit that these stories exude, I do wish that he would have had the book professionally edited. I found a variety of mistakes in the text, from spelling errors to incorrect punctuation. While these issues didn’t usually prevent me from understanding the author’s meaning, they were distracting and detracted from my experience while reading. I also would have liked to see more messages of hope within the book, but I understand that reality doesn’t always leave room for hope.
Based on these factors, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. It delivers on the reality that it promises in a rare way. However, the lack of professional editing forced me to remove a star.
I would recommend this book for adults who want insight into the experiences of African American men living in the United States. These are coming-of-age stories that truly show how these boys grow into men. The language, violence, and sexual content included make this book inappropriate for children, but I believe many adults could learn from the reality that this author has to offer.
My Only Friend And Other Stories
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