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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Madison Smartt Bell is one of the most prolific young writers in America. Since his first novel, The Washington Square Ensemble — published in 1983, when Bell was only 25 years old — he has published a total of 11 books: nine novels and two story collections. His latest book, Ten Indians, tells the story of an idealistic white tae kwon do instructor and his poor African-American students in inner-city Baltimore.
Mike Devlin is a 46-year-old child psychiatrist whose successful practice has kept him comfortably, if frustratingly, detached from life's harsher lessons and realities. Devlin is a man who wants to do something — he wants to make a difference in the world. After reaching a personal crossroads, he steps into a world where poverty, violence, and despair have imprisoned the city's youth: When his tae kwon do instructor offers him the opportunity to open a tae kwon do school near a housing project in Baltimore, he accepts.
Devlin opens a gym to teach the Korean martial art and encourages his 17-year-old daughter to help out. The young black neighborhood drug dealers are eager to learn the fighting for self-protection, anticipating the day when they will ultimately be sent to prison. But the brutality of the streets and a series of violent deaths and deadly misunderstandings shock Devlin into seeing how limited his influence has really been.
In this complex, fast-paced narrative, Bell focuses on the racial lines that have divided contemporary America. Like Bell's National Book Award finalist, All Souls' Rising, an epic novelaboutHaiti's bloody 19th-century revolution, Ten Indians captures a voice that needs to be heard. As Time magazine writes, "A lot of readers of the new novel who never read Bell before are going to be digging [All Souls' Rising] out of libraries and paperback shelves."