Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay, and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York

Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay, and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York

by Kai Wright
     
 

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Drifting Toward Love tells the stories of Manny, Julius, Carlos, and their friends, young gay men of color desperately searching for life's basic necessities: homes that provide more than shelter and security against more than violence or disease. As these teenagers navigate the rocky waters of adolescence, they wade through pains and passions that are…  See more details below

Overview

Drifting Toward Love tells the stories of Manny, Julius, Carlos, and their friends, young gay men of color desperately searching for life's basic necessities: homes that provide more than shelter and security against more than violence or disease. As these teenagers navigate the rocky waters of adolescence, they wade through pains and passions that are typical of any young person coming of age. But they do so with few resources-material or emotional-in a world where the cards are stacked against their success.

Journalist Kai Wright paints vivid, intimate portraits of these young men's sometimes tragic, often heroic lives. Manny is a working-class city kid making awkward teenage discoveries about his sexuality. In a troubled relationship with his mother and a stifling, combative school environment, he clumsily elbows out enough space to find himself. In the process, he and best friend Jason move from a budding love based on videogames and music to a troubled bond held together by drugs and sex for money. In one devastating instant, Manny will realize the demons Jason truly faces. Out of the wreckage of the life he builds with Jason, Manny drifts into an explosive social movement, fighting for public space for queer youth, and finds his calling as an activist.

Julius's story, meanwhile, is a classic New York tale: a young, dynamic gay man flees his rural home, seeking freedom in the big city. With no one to help guide his journey in New York, however, Julius never finds his footing, tumbling rapidly through homelessness, hustling, and drug abuse. He gradually confesses that his primary goal remains elusive: discovering love, and holding on to it.

Wright finds Julius in a gay-friendly shared house in a rough spot on the east side of Brooklyn. Carlos considers that same house a lifesaver, an unlikely safe haven in the middle of his childhood neighborhood, but he must balance his efforts at independence with the growing demands of his large Puerto Rican family, in which he serves as the lynchpin.

In Drifting Toward Love, Wright tells these stories and more, weaving in years of reporting on the broader social, economic, and political dynamics that box in gay men of color as they come into their own. By the end, a powerful and sometimes troubling story has unfurled that offers a unique and vital snapshot of the often overlooked lives of young people like Manny, Julius, Carlos, and their friends.


Kai Wright is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn, New York. His writing has appeared in Essence, Mother Jones, The Progressive, and the Village Voice. He is also publications editor for the Black AIDS Institute and author of two previous books on African American history.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Journalist Wright (Soldiers of Freedom) evokes the passage to gay identity for three young men of color in this impressionistic, often disjointed account. The narrative juxtaposes vignettes from the lives-particularly the sexual lives-of Manny, a 14-year-old Brooklynite of Puerto Rican and Jamaican heritage who "had leadership skills so natural he was all but unable to control them"; Julius, a 22-year-old African-American transplanted from north Florida to New York who is "equally capable of stunning achievement and devastating self-destruction"; and Carlos, a 25-year-old Puerto Rican who is "a caretaker by nature." These are gracefully written, sympathetic profiles, but they are only loosely tied together by the young men's overlap at an informal shelter for queer youth in East New York, Brooklyn. Additionally, Wright's brief historical background- of East New York, Puerto Rico, Greenwich Village and the house ball scene, as well as of theories of homosexuality and reference to diverse statistical studies-reveal that he has done his homework, but this reportage fragments, more than it supports, the already tenuous structure. Wright brings Manny's, Julius's and Carlos's dilemmas, confusion and curiosity to light, but not into sharp focus. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

In this portrait, Wright, publications editor for the Black AIDS Institute, explores the lives of three young gay men of color. He focuses on their experiences, their friends and families, and their activities as he details their journeys in trying to belong.


—Ann Burns
Kirkus Reviews
Gay people of color "struggle to fend off the false competition between racial and sexual belonging," declares the author, who delves into this paradox in three case studies. Wright (Soldiers of Freedom: An Illustrated History of African-Americans in the Armed Forces, 2002, etc.) follows his subjects, all young gay men, as they navigate personal, social and familial relationships. Julius, a foster kid and AP student, flees a stifling community in Florida and heads for New York City. Carlos, a Puerto Rican caught at the busy center of an extended family in his East New York neighborhood, must find the courage to deal with his burgeoning sexuality. Manny drops out of a Brooklyn high school and starts to work as a political activist after his best friend and lover commits suicide. Prostitution, homelessness, drugs and violence against gay men of color are all discussed in unflinching, at times wrenchingly intimate detail, alongside touching reminiscences of first love and the initial realization of a "different" sexuality. Wright criticizes such public-policy initiatives as web-filtering software, meant to block "obscene" websites, which frequently blocks nonsexual sites that provide gay youth access to important information. That's a particular problem, Wright posits, because so many of these young men have no mentors to turn to for advice. He closes with an account of the struggle between the largely Latino and African-American GLBT community members who hang out on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village and the neighborhood's wealthy property owners as they battle over what has become an iconic public space. The narrative structure is frequently confusing, but the respect Wright feelsfor his subjects shines through. An important book about an often-marginalized group.
From the Publisher
Drifting Toward Love is social commentary at its very best. . . . As compelling a page-turner as the tensest thriller and as emotionally rich as the sweetest love story. Kai Wright lets the bravery, resilience, and creativity of these teenagers shine through every page. The hardships they face will make you angry; their heroism will inspire you. —John D'Emilio, author of Lost Prophet

"These are gracefully written, sympathetic profiles . . . Additionally, Wright's brief historical background-of East New York, Puerto Rico, Greenwich Village and the house ball scene, as well as of theories of homosexuality and reference to diverse statistical studies-reveals that he has done his homework." —Publishers Weekly

"Blessed with the ability to connect emotional stories with factual information, Kai Wright creates an artistic and humanizing portrayal of self-realization that draws the reader into an often unseen and underexposed community." —Keith Boykin, author of Beyond the Down Low

"An intimate, at times heart-wrenching look at three young gay men of color who struggle to find a place-a bed to sleep in as well as a scene that allows them to be themselves without fear." —Beth Greenfield, Time Out New York

"The respect Wright feels for his subjects shines through. An important book about an often-marginalized group." —Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807079676
Publisher:
Beacon Press
Publication date:
01/15/2008
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
271 KB

Meet the Author

Kai Wright is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn, NY. His work focuses on the politics of sex and race, particularly as they impact public health. He contributes to leading independent and community-based media including The Progressive, Mother Jones, and Real Health magazines, and has written for publications ranging from Essence magazine to the Village Voice. He is also publications editor for the Black AIDS Institute and author of two previous books on African American history. He has been the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including the 2006 New American Media Award in Health Writing and the Pew Fellowship in International Reporting Project.

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