“Dark is the hard to face journey towards redemption, illuminated by characters whose mistakes could easily have been made by any one of us. An impressive debut the new images of the urban experience will be carved out by Kenji Jasper.”Ernesto Quinones, author of Bodega Dreams
“Kenji Jasper has tapped into the voice of his generation with this amazing new book. He understands the fears and aspirations of the young African/American male and is not afraid to expose the darker side of his hero’s personality in an attempt to make people sit up and think. Kenji Jasper has written a work of fiction that feels so real, it scares me.”
—E. Lynn Harris
“Kenji Jasper is a raw, driven talent ready to claim his space on your bookshelf. A fast-paced novel of a lost boy’s journey from juvenalia to manhood, from oblivious to consciousness, Dark is a lethal 40 oz. of sex, violence and suspense.”
—Mat Johnson, author of Drop
“With Dark Kenji Jasper lays waste to the genteel façade of the Washington, D.C., where dignitaries skirt around the lives of those actually born in the city. From the first page Jasper guns the engine, whipping the reader from pole to pole.”
—Victor LaValle, author of Slapboxing with Jesus
This undistinguished, morally troubling first novel features Thai Williams, a 19-year-old African American from the mostly mean streets of Washington, DC, who narrates a murder he commits and his subsequent event-filled week hiding out in Charlotte, NC. As an attempt at urban realism, it must inevitably be compared with Richard Wright's Native Son but it falls short in almost every way. Weak in characterization, clich d in language, littered with brand names (with unsolicited and unreimbursed product placements?), and often embodying an adolescent male's sexual fantasies, the novel verges on (and, frankly, sometimes crosses over into) a realm of stereotype that might have been found in a pre-Civil Rights Movement white racist novel. What is worse, the book seems to condone murder as a vehicle for self-realization and self-understanding. The author definitely missed a great opportunity to explore the rich and complicated culture of black Washington, DC. Instead, without apparent irony, Dark aspires to being the novelistic equivalent of an MTV gangsta rap video with all the insight and profundity one might expect from that. Not recommended. Roger A. Berger, Everett Community Coll., Everett, WA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Adult/High School-Thai Williams is a 19-year-old graduate of the DC public schools, and an entry-level government employee. He has vague aspirations to attend the University of the District of Columbia, but he never makes any concrete moves toward that goal. He divides his time among his job; his wild, streetwise friends; and his girlfriend, Sierra. His world crumbles when he finds her making love to another young man named Nick. He wants to beat up the interloper in a public place as revenge, but his friends put a loaded gun in his hand, and he ends up killing his rival instead. Thai flees to Charlotte, NC, to hide out with E, a friend who has recently relocated there. While he waits for interest in Nick's murder to subside, E introduces him to a whole new lifestyle that is more affluent, much less violent, and full of opportunities to advance socially and economically. The author of this page-turner is a 25-year-old native of Washington, DC, and he peppers the dialogue with contemporary slang and speech patterns. The story of this young black man makes an interesting contrast to Richard Wright's Native Son (HarperCollins, 1998).-Joyce Fay Fletcher, Rippon Middle School, Prince William County, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Minus the hip-hop window-dressing and sprinklings of rap names, Jasper's debut is only a desultory rendering of a young man's journey to maturity. Nineteen-year-old Thai Williamsthe brightest among his friendspasses his days in school, on his job, and hanging with his friends in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Then one day he walks in on his girlfriend grinding it out with a stranger named Nick, whom he later catches up with at a party. While he's chasing Nick, a gun ends up in Thai's hands, goes off, and a bullet lodges in Nick's skull. Believing himself a felon on the run, Thai lights out for Charlotte, North Carolina, where he lays low with Enrique ("E"). From the old neighborhood, E has made an enviable new start: he has a job with his mother in real estate, a sweet periwinkle Jeep, and a "rich girl" who respects herself. After some time with E, Thai ends up partying with white peoplethey're unexpectedly friendlybefriending a troubled girl named Alicia, and making occasional love with neighboring flight attendant Robin. Alicia, recently through an abortion, is still tangled up with a mean boyfriend who unsurprisingly clobbers Thai a couple of times in warning. Robin, meanwhile, encourages Thai to be his own man. E's mother, whose business is thriving, even offers him a job and the chance to enter college. What's not to like? Yet Thai comes to understand that in his previous environment, his irresponsible friends in effect conditioned him to murder Nick. So he goes to church, gets right with God and his father, learns some truths about his past, and heads back home to clean things up in D.C. before going on to whatever next stage in his life mayfollow. Thai's voice establishes all the depth of character there is here, the supporting cast existing mainly to prompt him toward his next insight. Still, this 25-year-old author shows a talent that could blossom in another, more challenging, book.