On the Down Low: A Journey Into the Lives of Straight Black Men Who Sleep With Men [NOOK Book]

Overview

A bold exposé of the controversial secret that has potentially dire consequences in many African American communities
Delivering the first frank and thorough investigation of life “on the down low” (the DL), J. L. King exposes a closeted culture of sex between black men who lead “straight” lives. King explores his own past as a DL man, and the path that led him to let go of the lies and bring forth a message that can promote emotional healing ...
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On the Down Low: A Journey Into the Lives of Straight Black Men Who Sleep With Men

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Overview

A bold exposé of the controversial secret that has potentially dire consequences in many African American communities
Delivering the first frank and thorough investigation of life “on the down low” (the DL), J. L. King exposes a closeted culture of sex between black men who lead “straight” lives. King explores his own past as a DL man, and the path that led him to let go of the lies and bring forth a message that can promote emotional healing and open discussions about relationships, sex, sexuality, and health in the black community.
Providing a long-overdue wake-up call, J. L. King bravely puts the spotlight on a topic that has until now remained dangerously taboo. Drawn from hundreds of interviews, statistics, and the author’s firsthand knowledge of DL behavior, On the Down Low reveals the warning signs African American women need to know. King also discusses the potential health consequences of having unprotected sex, as African American women represent an alarming 64 percent of new HIV infections. Volatile yet vital, On the Down Low is sure to be one of the most talked-about books of the year.
“A survey by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta found that nearly a quarter of black HIV-positive men who had sex with men consider themselves heterosexual.”
Essence
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
An HIV/STD prevention activist and educator, King uncovers a deadly secret regarding same-sex partners in the black community, one that is causing health problems for the wives and girlfriends of bisexual men. African American women represent 68 percent of new HIV cases as a result of this reckless behavior. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
This book has folks buzzing like a tree full of cicadas.” —Philadelphia Inquirer

“There's a new book girlfriends have got to read. It's a page-turner.” —Newsday (New York)

“A wake-up call.” —Dallas Voice
“A good read.” —The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Indiana)
“A revealing look at an important social health issue.” —Booklist
“King ultimately delivers a powerful and emotional story and must be lauded for having the courage to do so!” —QBR The Black Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307419170
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/18/2007
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 263,354
  • File size: 342 KB

Meet the Author

J. L. KING is an HIV/STD prevention activist, educator, and author. His expertise has been cited in national publications such as the New York Times and Essence, and his television appearances have ranged from The News Hour with Jim Lehrer to Black Entertainment Television. The father of three, he lives in Chicago.
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Read an Excerpt

1.

ON THE DL

I spotted this brother from my pew, ten rows back. His broad shoulders seemed to take up two seats. His physique was not burly, but the definition of his muscles was noticeable even through his light wool suit. His face was striking. He was a light-skinned brother who wore his curly hair cropped close on the sides and a little higher on top. He had a square jawline and sharp nose, and every time he turned to smile at his wife, I noticed the dimple on his right cheek. She was pretty, too--a petite woman with a caramel complexion and straight hair, which she wore on this particular Sunday up in a conservative bun. He "Amen-ed" every time the pastor hit his mark.

I was new to this church. I made it my business to introduce myself to him after the service. When our eyes locked, I knew. He looked at me just a little too long.

Mike worked for a mental-health organization in the Midwest and was a member of a Greek fraternity, a deacon in his church, and well liked. We hit it off instantly. I invited Mike to go with me to a card party, where he had a great time. Afterward we went back to my place, and soon we were making that connection. We didn't get into anything too deep. He was not feeling me like I was feeling him. Instead of becoming sex buddies, we became good friends. He and his wife, who was six weeks pregnant, would hang out with me and my lady friend. Later, when I had my kids for weekend visits, I would take them over to Mike and Sheila's house. Mike and I talked on the phone every day and would share some personal secrets. We became so close that I would let Mike use my apartment to get with his dude. I spent a lot of time out of town, so I gave him a set of keys, and he was free to do whatever in my space. His office was about a block from my place, so it was easy for him and his dude to slip away during lunchtime. His wife loved me and never suspected what either of us was up to. In her mind, if Mike was with me, he was cool because I was cool.

One evening Mike showed up at my house, crying. He was so upset he could barely hold himself up. He told me that he had applied to have his life insurance increased by $250,000. With their baby on the way, Mike wanted to make sure that his family would be properly taken care of. But he had to take a complete physical to qualify. Mike told me he got a call that afternoon from the insurance company telling him he had been declined for the increase.

He said, "J., the only reason they would decline me is if my HIV test came back positive." A lot of times the only way a man finds out he's HIV positive is when he either donates blood or goes for a physical for a life insurance policy, which includes an HIV test. Mike said the doctor's office also called and wanted to talk to him about the results of his physical.

"J., you know I mess around with dudes." He was a bottom (meaning he liked to be penetrated).

"Do you use condoms?" I asked him, knowing the answer, but not knowing what else to say.

"You know I don't use no condoms," he said. "My dude is cool. He's clean. He has a wife, too. And he told me he was just fucking me."

That's a classic line. If you're living on the down low, or DL, and you're lying to your wife or your girlfriend, then there's no reason why you wouldn't lie to every dude you're sleeping with, too.

"Man, what are you going to do?" I asked him.

"What do you think I should do?"

"Bro, tell you what I think. Let's say you contracted it from a woman. Even better, why don't you tell your wife that when you were on a business trip in Las Vegas, you picked up a prostitute, and the condom broke. Ask for forgiveness for that one night of indiscretion. She'll believe that."

"You think they'll believe that, J.?" Mike asked.

"Bro, trust me," I said. "It will work."

The next day Mike went to the doctor, and it was confirmed that he was HIV positive. He told his wife, his family, and his church the story we'd come up with at my house, and they believed him. They forgave him. The church prayed over him. He kept his job. He kept his life. The black community could accept that this brother got the virus from a woman--even a prostitute. They could never accept that he got it from a man.

Mike lost his lover, though. The dude wouldn't even return his phone calls. He cut Mike off and left him to fend for himself, with his wife and kid-to-be. Mike, thank God, is still alive today, and his wife and baby are healthy. His scare and my assistance in covering up the truth were my wake-up call. It was getting too close to home, and I didn't want to attend another funeral--especially not my own.

Mike's visit was my final straw. Months before, I had had a vision. I was told that my mission was to be honest and to tell my story, but I didn't listen at first. It was a message I didn't understand, nor was it a message I was trying to hear, because I wasn't ready yet to come clean.

At the time, I was a vice president of marketing and sales and sat on the executive board of an African American educational publishing company. I was making six figures and, as part of my package, had use of an expensive house in an upscale Atlanta suburb and a Mercedes-Benz. I had a beautiful apartment and a new Mazda 626 in Columbus, Ohio, and I traveled back and forth between Ohio and Atlanta. I felt I had too much to lose.

Years later, I was still lying even after my wife caught me with another man and divorced me. I never stopped doing what I was doing. I was walking around seeing how many men and women I could sleep with. I was caught up with self. It was all about me.

Once I was divorced, I was like a kid in a candy shop. I was going to adult bookstores, churches, anywhere I knew men were--just to pick up brothers. At the same time, I always had a steady girlfriend with whom I was having sex. But things started to change when I got that vision. I started taking a look at who I was, and I didn't like me. In fact, I hated me.

One night I went home and was getting ready to go to sleep, when suddenly I got on my knees and said my prayers. Afterward I got in bed. As I was lying there, my body froze and I couldn't move. My body was in a comalike state. I was awake and scared. I heard a voice say to me, "You must tell your story."

What?! What was happening to me?

I was fighting to move, but I couldn't. I was sweating and started to panic.

Tell my story? No way!

I eventually came out of this state after what seemed like hours but was probably only a few minutes. Once again as I was lying in bed, the same feeling came over me.

I cannot do this.

I sat on the edge of the bed and started thinking about my daughter, my son, my father, my brother--all the people to whom I would have to expose my life, and I couldn't do it. I couldn't be butt naked before the world. The next day I had a business meeting with a close friend from my church whom I trusted and who knew about my DL life. I told him about the voice I'd heard.

"You know what, Brother King? The pastor has wanted to hold a men's retreat to discuss why a few of the married sisters in our church are ending up with HIV," he said. And you would be perfect to facilitate this workshop, this men's retreat. The pastor does not want to market it as a homosexual workshop, because he knows the men won't show up. This is your opportunity. If God is speaking to you, this is your calling. Why don't you do this retreat?"

"I can't do that," I said. "I can't go before my church brothers and tell them the truth. I can't do it."

The church didn't have the retreat, and over time more sisters and brothers who I knew were getting HIV. I had been to more funerals that year than I care to remember for members of that church, and friends who attend that church and other churches.

I finally got the message the third time the voice spoke to me. I knew I had to be obedient. I could no longer run. I had decided to move ahead and tell my secrets, along with the secrets of all the black men living double lives and having sex with men and women.

Saving lives. It should have been the easiest decision to make. But actually doing it, going out there, was the hardest. I spent two weeks trying to figure out reasons I shouldn't do this. I thought about my family. My mother had passed that January, and I knew that if she were still alive, I could never do this. My dad and I were never on the same page about anything, especially my relationships. He was on me shortly after my divorce about having a woman in my life, questioning why my relationships didn't last more than a couple of dates. My younger brother and I were as distant as could be, and we had never had a conversation about anything personal. Ever.

I knew I could deal with their backlash and what they might say about my stepping out. I was sure they would talk about it at my cousin's farm, where the family goes for gatherings and cookouts. I went when my mother was alive but didn't plan to go again. I never felt part of the brotherhood of my male cousins; there was never a connection.

The biggest hurdle I would face would be my ex-wife and my children, especially my children. That is what kept me in a constant psychological tug-of-war. What would my kids say? What would their mother say? How would I face them? How could I explain to them that I needed to tell the world about my life, my secrets, my personal lifestyle? How could I tell them everything that I had hidden from them? What would be the best way to tell them? I prayed, and I asked God for a message, a message that would guide me through this.

In 2001 I decided to resign from my job and had a friend put together a brochure for me that I called "Secrets of the African American Bisexual Man." I knew "DL" was an undercover word, and health officials wouldn't understand "down low." So I used "bisexual" because that would be a hook to get me in the door. On the cover I put a quotation that read: "Oh, no! Why didn't he tell me?" And inside I gave a brief breakdown of the life of a brother living on the DL.

I wasn't a health expert. I didn't know much about HIV and AIDS or the statistics, but I did know that too many people were dying unnecessarily. I wasn't sure where to start or really where I was going. I just asked to be led. I had been in marketing just about my entire professional career, so I knew how to do this part of it. I sent my brochure to fifty-two health departments throughout the country. Not one responded. I did another mailing. I finally got a call from a director at the Ohio Department of Health, Juliet Dorris-Williams. She said she had received my brochure and wanted to talk with me. I went to the health department and met with her, and her first question was "What is this secret?"

"The secret is that men who look like me, talk like me, and think like me are having sex with men but still love and want to be with their women. And they do not believe they're gay."

"What?!" she said. "Are you willing to say that publicly?"

"I don't know. I'm just stepping out on blind faith. I don't have any credentials. I just know I have a story to tell. I'm a man who leads a double life. I have unprotected sex with men and women. It's only by the grace of God that I'm alive now. Based on my behavior, I should have been dead a long time ago. But I'm willing to share my story with you folks, you professionals who are trying to figure out what's going on."

She schooled me on the numbers--the statistics--and I was chilled to my bones. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the AIDS rate among black women is three times higher than among Latina women and eighteen times higher than among white women. Today black women make up more than half of all women who have died from AIDS in the United States. African Americans make up 13 percent of the population, yet we now account for nearly 50 percent of all new AIDS cases in the United States. Sixty-eight percent of all new AIDS cases are black women, 75 percent of whom contracted the disease from heterosexual sex.

In the past, the CDC did not separate bisexual and gay behaviors. Both were grouped together, and gay overshadowed bisexual behavior. People saw AIDS still as just a white gay disease. However, the women getting infected were your everyday women, housewives and mothers. Heterosexual sex was being reported as the primary reason for these alarming numbers. Numbers that forced the CDC to take a look at this behavior, and to realize that in the black community, many men did not identify themselves as gay or bisexual, but they were having sex with men.

I put a face and a name to the behavior that was infecting some of our women. It's called the DL--the down low--brothers who have sex with other brothers. They're not in the closet; they're behind the closet. They are so far removed from attaching themselves and what they do to the homosexual lifestyle that these men do not consider themselves gay.

The CDC had not identified why black women were contracting the virus in such high numbers, but I knew one of the reasons. Men who are having unprotected sex with men but not labeling themselves gay are also having unprotected sex with women, thus spreading the virus. Women are getting infected by their husbands and boyfriends, who are not telling them that they are also having sex with men. These men are living life on the down low.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 77 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(39)

4 Star

(18)

3 Star

(9)

2 Star

(6)

1 Star

(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 77 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2004

    Scary, confusing and extremly sad.

    As a nurse this book angered me to the point of total disgust, because I see the end results of AIDS and how many lives are completely wasted behind hedonistic pleasures,but I commend Mr. King for coming forward and doing the responsible thing by trying educating EVERYONE about this wreckless behavior of a few selfish people. The scary, confusing and extremely sad part is, that I will always wonder if every brother I encounter is on the DL until they prove that they are not. The book is powerful wake up call to those of you on the DL to come clean and be honest.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 28, 2011

    DISGUSTING!!!!

    First off i want my money back for this so- called expose! THIS IS GARBAGE!!! I cant even bring myself to read past Chapter 3...Thank The Lord. It upests me to know that he can profit from hurting so many people with his lies. What a horrible person. Yes I know know there is no one in this world that is perfect, but what he did was no different than a RAPIST. He raped his wife of her ability to trust in a mans true love for her and her families well being. Not to mention the other women he lied to, just to protect his image. These men are hiding behind the purity of Gods love and using it to shield who they really are. Thank you Father for being a healer, because these women will need it mentally & spirtually. He and the rest of the "demonically possesed" liars will never have a true peace with life. And, I dont care that he has openly come out as a GAY man now. Why not back then? Shame on him hiding behind the cloth of God to find his next fix. SICK BASTARD!!! I WANT MY MONEY BACK B&N!!!! (I only gavee this one star because i have to in order to post. Otherwise big fat Zero)

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2005

    Much Needed Literature for the Black Community

    I'm doing thesis research on 'The Down Low' because I see first hand how it can effect not only other men, but women and children also. It's disappointing that many African-American men believe that sex with a woman makes them men, when in reality it is much more than that. Being a man means standing up for yourself, even if you're by yourself. Using a wife or girlfriend and children as a shield from society is cowardly. What is most disheartening though is that fact that DL men will take a woman as a wife and bring children into to the world for the sole purpose of protecting himself from what the world may think of him if they knew his true sexuality. I feel for women who all of a sudden find out that their husband didn't really love or even lust after them nor did he really love the children that they beared; these men just wanted to sheild themselves from the hatred and the bias. I am a black gay man and I've met men who were creeping around the gay areas while their wives are at home. I've tried to talk to some of them by just asking them 'What the hell are you doing?' King did a really good job describing the DL lifestyle and hopefully, it will encourage some men to stand up and come foward instead of hiding behind their wife and kids and possibly ruining their lives

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2004

    An eye opener

    JL King is a brave man. I applaude him for being truthful. I reccommend this book to EVERY BLACK WOMEN.. It totally un-believable how much of NO value a black woman has in a black man's eye who is living on the DL. very sad and deceitful. I have learned alot and saddened by it. I totally agree- We all must be educated on this subject and about the HIV,get tested onthe regular and stomp the virus out of our race before their won't be anymore blacks left! Before you read this book, that a deep breath, pray and stay focus on what the message is actually about.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 1, 2011

    Every women should read this book.

    I love this book it wad hard for me to put the book down . This book was amazed .every every women should read this.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    TABOO SUBJECK

    THIS BOOK IS ONE THAT ALL SHOULD READ. THE AUTHOR HAS BROUGHT OUT A TABOO SUBJECT THAT MANY PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT OR DISCUSS. THIS SUBJECT MEN SLEEPING WITH MEN IS ONE THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN BROUGHT TO LIGHT SOME YEARS AGO. THERE ARE SO MANY MEN WHO LIVE SECRET LIVES ALL THE TIME. THERE ARE THOSE WHO CHOOSE TO HIDE THERE FEELINGS AND MARRY. BUT LO AND BEHOLD THOSE FEELINGS ARE GOING TO COME OUT SOONER OR LATER. I FEEL MR. KING CHOSE TO STAND UP AND BE HONEST WITH HIMSELF.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2006

    Well Done, brother!!

    I just read the entire copy and I am a hetersexual woman, mother, and wife. I couldn't have wrote it better myself, I appreciate anybody that would take the time out save the lives of others in this day and age. I forwarded a quote from your book to majority of the black women in my email address book to try and give them some perspective on the subject and do you know not one of them responded back. As if they are afraid to imagine that their man maybe on the Down Low? It is always a possibility and I have always paid attention long before your book was published. So, thank you from a real sista who believes in networking to keep us alive. Tewanda Kinchen

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2005

    Hit home!!

    I saw a lot of men I know in this book as well as other's on the DL. The intentions of the book was loud an clear, even though so many mist it!What other explination can you give for married women that don't fool around coming up with the HIV virus? The books purpose was not to point another finger at the black men America, or to put them down. it was to reveal a hidden life that some live. Maybe he could have mentioned men in general,of all colors, but it's the black man that has the fastest growing rate of HIV cases. No,we are not the blame for the wide spread of this disease, but we are contributing to the spread. King gave his on experience as well as the experience of other men on the DL. what more could he do. the book hit home!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2005

    bratha n Atlanta

    I read the book, i was really was more discusted than impressed. I feel sorry for my sistas out there that is looking for guidance thru this! For my straight brathas- that are straight! The females will always have this in the back of there minds,(dl bratha). I give props it JL was out to inform the public on safety of one another, but , i'm certain his motive was about his on fortune. Don't get me wrong, i'm not a negative bratha at all, but just wasn't feelin this literature, or the way the confused bratha got his points across. Sistas-a straight man don't sleep w/other men! b safe

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2004

    Eye-opener!!

    After seeing him on Oprah I just had to read this book. I appreciated J.L.'s concern for African-American women and their health. I read this book in four hours. I truly enjoyed this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 29, 2011

    A book for ALL WOMEN!!!

    Down low men need to be exposed!!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2007

    Interesting read

    I found it informative. Didn't really tell me much about how to spot a DL man. From his descriptions, it appears every metro-sexual could be labeled a DL man.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2005

    Thanks for the truth

    I read this book and it opened my eyes to a lot of things about MEN in general. May-be if more men told the truth in the beginning may-be more 'black' families would be still together.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2005

    A Real Wake Up Call For Some

    I started reading this book and my jaw hit the floor. I was shocked. I never even knew this happened. It's a good read. It's just a shame that these men go around sleeping with other men while pretending to be straight. At the same time they are ruthless cowards. Tell that woman if you are sleeping with other men. Let it be HER choice to date you,not yours.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2005

    How I Feel About The Book

    The story On The Down Low by J.L. King is a true story that is based on his and other black men lives who are living a secrect life on the down low, which is also known as the dl for short. well the term on the down low means that you are a straight black man who sleeps with other black men behind your wives or even girlfriends back, and you don't consider yourself as being gay what so ever. That is what being on the down low means. I feel as if the aurthor's goal for writing this book was to inform black wemon about certain black men that are out in the world doing mischevious things behind their backs.I also feel he wrote this book to answer the numder one most asked question amoung black females,HOW ARE THEY BEING AFFECTED WITH HIV/AIDS IF THEIR PARTNER CLAIMS TO BE STRAIGHT, AND FAITHFULL.That is what I believe the aurthor's goal is. The reason I liked this book so much is because I liked the idea that it was a true story because I love books that are based on real life situations.I also like this book so much because it's a key to how some black men really are and how some black wemon are being affected withHIV/AIDS.Those are the reasos why I like this book so much. I feel as if everyone should read this book because it's a true story about something that is really going on in life, and also because it won't waste any of your time, and plus it's not a book that will leave empty spaces in your head, it will answer just about any question you have in mine to ask.This is why I recommenmd this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2004

    Good Information

    I read this book in 1 day! As I was reading it I got angrier and angrier at the irresponsible behavior of so called educated brothers. However, it was an eye opener and as I think back, I dealt with a DL brother. He would befriend men at the mall while shopping for model cars. Since it was 'man talk' I would walk away and go shopping, not knowing that he was making his DL connection. Fortunately, I am STD free but I still live like a wreck, thinking of what could have happened to me. I want to thank the author for opening my eyes to a world out there that is worse than terrorism. These men behave selfishly and want people to understand that they are not gay? Give me a break, you're as gay as they come. I respect gay people that are open about their sexuality and are not trying to fool anyone, which by the way, most gay men I know are very careful and use condoms. Yes, read this book, it's an education and a lesson on awareness of what's out there.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2014

    This is truly an informative book....

    I was truly moved by reading this book. I plan to pass this on to my daughter so that she can also read this book. It is so hard to truly know if your husband or boyfriend is on the DL. I'm thankful for not contacting HIV or the virus. What an eye opener for me. Great book and excellent reading.

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  • Posted December 28, 2010

    A MUST READ!!!!!

    This was a big eye openner!!! Thank you Mr. King!!!

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  • Posted February 16, 2010

    On the D.L

    King throughout the book is very consistent; he never shifted to anything irrelevant. I favored the fact that he has the titles at the top of each new category; what I like about the titles is that they prepare me for what I'm about to read. I also liked King's clarity. He is so clear that I didn't have to pick up a dictionary to find out what a word meant once. This is what makes him a good writer. He knows who his audience is; he knows that young adults and even teenagers would be reading his book. So he made it formal but not too complex for the average reader. I enjoyed King's tone. He was very calm. Even though the stories in the book are sad, I feel like the author kept his cool and remained calm. With every positive there is a negative. Something i didn't care for in the book was the fact that King pretty much dedicated the book to all men. As a woman I feel somewhat discriminated against.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2008

    Fascinating

    I am a white female and had no idea this behavior of being 'on the down low' was happening in the black community. I applaud this author for shedding light on the subject and wish him the best.

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