Boombox

Boombox

by Cohen Gabriel
     
 

One block. Four neighbors. One very loud problem. Black and white, young and old, men and women, they live in Brooklyn's Boerum Hill, sharing a courtyard in relative harmony. It's what a former mayor liked to call "the urban mosaic." There's Carol Fasone, a secretary enjoying her new marriage to a Bosnian immigrant. There's Mitchell Brett, a Wall Streeter transplanted…  See more details below

Overview

One block. Four neighbors. One very loud problem. Black and white, young and old, men and women, they live in Brooklyn's Boerum Hill, sharing a courtyard in relative harmony. It's what a former mayor liked to call "the urban mosaic." There's Carol Fasone, a secretary enjoying her new marriage to a Bosnian immigrant. There's Mitchell Brett, a Wall Streeter transplanted from Manhattan's Upper East Side, trying to get his wife pregnant. There's Grace Howard, hoping for a promotion in her corporate job, surprised to find herself beginning a romance with a member of the Board. And then there's teenage Jamel Wilson, who buys a big sound system to impress his friends from the projects around the corner, blasts gangster rap into the backyard gardens, and--over the course of one hot summer--pushes the block's friendships and alliances past the breaking point. In Boombox, the author of the Edgar Award-nominated mystery novel Red Hook turns to a different kind of story: a finely-observed urban drama, and a heartfelt, unflinching answer to Rodney King's plaintive question: "Can we all get along?"

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"... Cohen's tight plot, complex characters and vibrant cityscape create a convincing slice of urban life."
Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly

Cohen's impressive second novel abandons the gritty waterfront of his Edgar-nominated debut, Red Hook, in favor of a rapidly gentrifying nook a few stops up the F train line. Shortly after 9/11 in Brooklyn's Boerum Hill, Jamel Wilson, a 16-year-old father and high school dropout who finds a sense of pride in his fast food gig, wants to listen to music in his courtyard, but his recreation is a profound irritation to his demographically diverse neighbors, each with domestic dramas of their own. Carol Fasone lives with her racist mother and Bosnian husband, Milosz, whom she's putting through engineering school. Mitchell Brett, a bored accountant, and his attractive but troubled wife, Kristin, are trying to have a child. Grace Howard, a West Indian lady, is a workaholic at a downtown insurance company hoping for a big promotion and some romance. Jamel's mother, Melba, sells real estate and struggles to keep Jamel off the streets. But when tempers flare over the loud music, the cops are of little help and the situation turns volatile. Despite an unsurprising climax, Cohen's tight plot, complex characters and vibrant cityscape create a convincing slice of urban life. (July)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
KLIATT - KLIATT Review
This novel is made up of a series of chapters about four neighbors living in a neighborhood in Brooklyn. One family consists of a mother and her teenage son who has dropped out of school after 11th grade and is struggling to figure out what to do with his life, now that he has a child with his girlfriend who isn't very interested in him. His main aspiration in life is to buy a very powerful stereo system. His mother's aspiration is to keep him out of trouble and she is willing to do anything to do that. Another family is a young white couple who have moved into the almost all-black neighborhood, anticipating quiet gatherings in their backyard and restoring their house to its former glory. The husband gets angrier and angrier at the neighbor's blasting of his music. A third is a woman in her 30s who has married a refugee from Bosnia and finds happiness until he gets his green card and moves out. The fourth is a woman in her 50s who has worked her way up in an insurance company only to be passed over for a promotion that is, instead, given to a younger white woman. The loud music brings the people together, resulting in an explosion of cultural clashing and a killing. The characters are well developed and go way beyond the stereotypes that each person represents, although some of the characters can't get beyond the stereotypes they believe in. The author writes the story with empathy for each character so that the reader can understand, if not condone, the actions of each of the characters. There is some profanity and rough language, but it would be almost impossible to tell this story without it. Age Range: Ages 15 to adult. REVIEWER: Nola Theiss (Vol. 42, No. 1)
Kirkus Reviews
A beautifully written, thoroughly depressing novel about the racial divide. Boerum Hill is a Brooklyn neighborhood in transition-gentrification having its dislocating, often painful way with the harried residents. Until recently uniformly black, it's now mostly white, and while the neighborhood is outwardly peaceful, there is very little about it to suggest a community. True, Carol Fasone (white) and Grace Howard (black) do a bit of visiting back and forth, but it's a cautious, circumspect relationship, flourishing far less than the gardens both are so good at growing. On Boerum Hill, everyone seems to stay at arms-length. And then young Jamel Wilson gets his new sound system: "four mighty speaker cabinets . . . SuperDJ 400-watt power amplifier." A boombox to be reckoned with, a boombox to do justice to the gangsta rap that Jamel adores. Suddenly the white residents of Boerum Hill are plunged into "BPW (Black People's World)," and they don't like it. It alienates them. Perhaps-when the box is at full boom, which, to Jamel, is standard operating procedure-it secretly terrifies them. The one thing it does for certain is rally them. Organized, they go down to the local police station, where they encounter a surprisingly sympathetic African-American sergeant who recently endured a similar situation with his own neighbors-Russian music lovers. The sergeant is sympathetic but powerless. Jamel mutes the sound when the cops order him to, ratchets it back up the moment they're gone. The conflict deepens. Both sides feel aggrieved. Cohen's first novel (Red Hook, 2001) was an exceptionally well-done police procedural. Readers may find this a mixed bag, however: a rich, inviting prose style coupledwith a relentlessly gloomy worldview.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780897335584
Publisher:
Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
05/08/2007
Pages:
221
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Gabriel Cohen’s first novel was nominated for an Edgar award. He is the author of five novels and a nonfiction book, and has written for The New York Times, Poets & Writers, and many other publications. He teaches writing at Pratt Institute.

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