Loeb debuts with a shallow depiction of growing up biracial in New Jersey. Portraying his coming-of-age moments in symphonic fragments (“There is always a winner and a loser, an account of the victory, and the untold story of the loss”) he recounts being bullied in his nearly all-white community and struggling to fit into his own Black family. Raised by his Black mother from the mid-1980s to 2000s, with a mostly absent white Jewish father, Loeb recalls wanting desperately to “grab and hold on to something to call my own” as he shares the youthful adventures he longed for but never had with his missing father, summers spent at his Nana’s house in the segregated Deep South, and a disturbing scene in which Loeb hints at his adolescent male friend taking advantage of an unconscious female classmate during a house party. The latter incident is brushed off, as are Loeb’s decision to take part in hurtful pranks to avoid being singled out (“I could say that I am sorry now, but I’m not,” he reflects.) There’s rich material here, but the shallow treatment of masculinity blunts the work’s impact. On the very crowded shelf of coming of age memoirs, this one doesn’t stand out. (Feb.)
Utterly captivating and resonant, The In-Betweens deserves a top spot on your bookshelf.”Chicago Review of Books “This gorgeously told 'lyrical memoir' recounts Loeb’s curious, difficult, joyous journey to find a place in the world in light of his Southern Black and Long Island-Jewish heritage.”Philadelphia Inquirer
“Resonant. . . . Engagingly delivered, candid reflections on heritage and identity.”Kirkus Reviews “Ideal for those interested in descriptive, insightful stories about what it is like to not quite fit in anywhere, to inhabit many spaces at once, and to be challenged with the formation of one’s own identity in a sometimes chaotic and contradictory environment.”Library Journal
“With its keen attention to language and its moving portrayal of boyhood and belonging, The In-Betweens has earned its place alongside the greats of lyrical, coming-of-age nonfiction.” The Adroit Journal “Loeb’s writing is artful. . . . One must get to know Loeb slowly, one memory at a time.” Jewish Book Council “Rich, evocative, and surprising.”
Marissa Higgins, Daily Kos
“While the memoir is masterfully toldLoeb employs a variety of craft techniques that have a powerful effectwhat makes The In-Betweens so special is the thoughtfulness Loeb brings to his work.”The Rumpus “[Loeb] dances to a slow, beautiful ballad on every page. His story will move any reader, but it’s the craft of his work that truly shines.” Debutiful “Loeb’s debut memoir crackles with light, breaking open each superb chapter to uncover a memorable and gripping origin story.” Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of World of Wonders “Sentence to sentence, The In-Betweens is awake to the awe of being in a body and the danger of negotiating a culture that wants to drive space between us, inside us. Davon Loeb is writing to stay alive under the harshest conditions, and he has given us a brilliant, devastating book.” Paul Lisicky, author of Later: My Life at the Edge of the World “Confession, manifesto, bildungsroman, and prayer, The In-Betweens is a meditation on bruise and healing. Loeb’s struggles become snapshots of how transformation occurs even where shards have been piled, where one waits ‘for something to happen, like flashes of red and blue and sirens pulsing.’ A truly extraordinary new voice.” Roy G. Guzmán, author of Catrachos
In this collection of 47 short vignettes, Loeb, an assistant features editor at The Rumpus, writes about his experiences as a biracial man in America. He's the son of a Black mother with Alabama roots and a white Jewish father from Long Island, and he struggled to fit in as a child in his suburban New Jersey neighborhood, where he was one of few children of color. His childhood, filled with scenes of daring, fighting, and prepubescent experimentation, is all under the judgment and direction of familial adults. There are many hopeful and optimistic beginnings, and readers are pulled further into the messiness and joys of human relationships. The devastation of racism and slavery in the United States is personalized in the experience of older generations as the younger ones attempt to reconcile and reflect. Loeb confronts what it means to inhabit his skin and family history, in both individual experiences and those common to many multiracial people. VERDICT Ideal for those interested in descriptive, insightful stories about what it is like to not quite fit in anywhere, to inhabit many spaces at once, and to be challenged with the formation of one's own identity in a sometimes chaotic and contradictory environment.—Anita Mechler
Resonant tales of growing up biracial.
Loeb, an assistant features editor at the Rumpus, makes his book debut with an engaging coming-of-age memoir in the form of lyrical essays. The son of a White Jewish father and Black mother, the author was raised by his mother after his parents divorced. With his “sandy beige” skin, he was “the white boy in a family of Black boys and Black girls, of Black men and Black women, and years of being Black in this stoic world made my skin some kind of leprosy.” Loeb was one of only a few Black kids in school, which was especially troubling during Black History Month, when he felt singled out. Although he played with White boys and ate at their families’ tables, he became acutely aware of underlying racism. Loeb dealt with the awkwardness of adolescence by taking cues from the ways Blacks were portrayed in popular culture. “I had no balance between being Black and acting Black,” he writes. “The two were inseparable. I was just a replica of the things I saw on television.” The author vividly recounts visits with members of his extended family, including his Nana, the grandfather who taught him to fight, and the many boisterous cousins with whom he spent hot summers in Alabama. Even while they enjoyed childhood adventures, they also “learned about the danger of skin, how the hooded boogeymen, as we called them, would come and get us.” The memoir gets its title from an essay on the perils of driving while Black. “The in-betweens,” Loeb writes, “are when the police officer is about to step to the window when I am watching him from the rearview mirror and unsure about what will happen next.” His mother tried mightily to prepare him for these moments: “Mom said that even though I was only half Black, one drop of the blood made me Black enough.”
Engagingly delivered, candid reflections on heritage and identity.