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Don't Cry for Me: A Novel

by Daniel Black

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956243,746 (4.54)None
"Don't Cry for Me is a perfect song."--Jesmyn Ward A Black father makes amends with his gay son through letters written on his deathbed in this wise and penetrating novel of empathy and forgiveness, for fans of Ta-Nehisi Coates, Robert Jones Jr. and Alice Walker As Jacob lies dying, he begins to write a letter to his only son, Isaac. They have not met or spoken in many years, and there are things that Isaac must know. Stories about his ancestral legacy in rural Arkansas that extend back to slavery. Secrets from Jacob's tumultuous relationship with Isaac's mother and the shame he carries from the dissolution of their family. Tragedies that informed Jacob's role as a father and his reaction to Isaac's being gay. But most of all, Jacob must share with Isaac the unspoken truths that reside in his heart. He must give voice to the trauma that Isaac has inherited. And he must create a space for the two to find peace. With piercing insight and profound empathy, acclaimed author Daniel Black illuminates the lived experiences of Black fathers and queer sons, offering an authentic and ultimately hopeful portrait of reckoning and reconciliation. Spare as it is sweeping, poetic as it is compulsively readable, Don't Cry for Me is a monumental novel about one family grappling with love's hard edges and the unexpected places where hope and healing take flight.… (more)
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Full of raw emotion and hope for redemption. Sticks with you. ( )
  LittleSpeck | May 17, 2022 |
Very powerfully told, this is the story of a black man who lived in rural south and moved north when he grew up. Raised by his grandma and grandpa, he thought being a man meant other family members were under his control. It wasn’t until his divorce and his estrangement from his gay son, along with cancer than made him turn inward and start looking at his own behaviors as causes for what happened to him. A friend gave him a copy of a Toni Morrison book to read, and it got him reading many more books about the black experience. But in the end, although he wanted to reunite with his son, he felt the damage been done and it was a useless gesture. A sad conclusion to the book filled with letters Jacob wrote to his son. ( )
  brangwinn | May 11, 2022 |
I cried for him...
Jacob is dying and reflecting back on his mistakes as a man. He begins to lay out the story of his life for his son in a series of letters, not because he is trying to justify his actions, but as a way of stopping the cycle of trauma within his family history and as a way of saying sorry. He lays his regret and longing out for his son to see in hopes that his son can let go of his pain and live the happy life he always wanted for him.
The book was beautiful in a truthful way but also really simply written. I hope that author found catharsis while writing this book, and I hope anyone reading it who may have had similar trauma can use this book to get them through to the other side. ( )
  maddogish | May 9, 2022 |
Black deftly handles so many themes in the highly moving novel. ( )
  bookwyrmm | Apr 4, 2022 |
In his introduction, Daniel Black explains that His father died when the two of the had been separated for years. Black wrote Don't Cry for Me as a way of imagining his father's life in the years when they hadn't had conduct. Isaac, the son in the novel, is gay and Black, as is Black the author, and that was a key factor in the distance between him and his father. Jacob, Isaac's father knows he is dying of cancer and writing out his life's story for his son, not so much as an apology, but as a truth telling—a way of offering Isaac a piece of his past that he can choose to hold onto or release as he sees fit.

Initially, I was dubious about this premise, which suggested a great deal of wishful thinking; however, Black created a father and son pair who were both strong figures, complex, and almost constantly in conflict. In his letter, Isaac describes his life as a child, when he was raised by his maternal grandparents, his courtship, marriage, and that marriage's dissolution, and his life on his own.

It isn't a spoiler, I think, to say that a big piece of Jacob's story is coming to realize how violent and limited his concept of manhood was. As he reflects during his time alone and reads (cameo appearance here for Alice Walker's the Color Purple), he comes to see other versions of manhood, even if he's unable to adopt them as his own. The fact that Jacob acknowledges his inability to change is what keeps this novel from functioning as a wishful thinking. A father and son have a chance to come to know each other, but there is no forced happy ending.

Don't Cry for Me offers readers both an understanding of a specific father-son relationship, and it also opens up the ways in which readers can consider their own intergenerational family relationships. This book allowed me to rethink some issues I've been confronted as my parents (now in their 90s) age. I can thank Black—and his creations Jacob and Isaac—both for the powerful story his novel tells and for insights of my own that resulted from reading Don't Cry for Me.

If you are someone who appreciates family stories, particularly cross-generational ones, who has experienced, wants to learn more about the pressures that race in the U.S. can place on Black families, or about the ways gender identity and sexuality can affect family relationships, this is a book to read sooner, rather than later.

I received a free review copy of this title from the publisher via EdelweissPlus; the opinions are my own. ( )
  Sarah-Hope | Feb 28, 2022 |
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"Don't Cry for Me is a perfect song."--Jesmyn Ward A Black father makes amends with his gay son through letters written on his deathbed in this wise and penetrating novel of empathy and forgiveness, for fans of Ta-Nehisi Coates, Robert Jones Jr. and Alice Walker As Jacob lies dying, he begins to write a letter to his only son, Isaac. They have not met or spoken in many years, and there are things that Isaac must know. Stories about his ancestral legacy in rural Arkansas that extend back to slavery. Secrets from Jacob's tumultuous relationship with Isaac's mother and the shame he carries from the dissolution of their family. Tragedies that informed Jacob's role as a father and his reaction to Isaac's being gay. But most of all, Jacob must share with Isaac the unspoken truths that reside in his heart. He must give voice to the trauma that Isaac has inherited. And he must create a space for the two to find peace. With piercing insight and profound empathy, acclaimed author Daniel Black illuminates the lived experiences of Black fathers and queer sons, offering an authentic and ultimately hopeful portrait of reckoning and reconciliation. Spare as it is sweeping, poetic as it is compulsively readable, Don't Cry for Me is a monumental novel about one family grappling with love's hard edges and the unexpected places where hope and healing take flight.

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