Three sides to every story is my second time reading a book from the Urban drama genre and I was still blown away. Nero weaves a dramatic story from three different perspective culminating in a cataclysmic event which changes the lives of everyone involved. The love Triangle of Johnny, Tonya and James will have you hooked from the very first page to the Epilogue (there isn’t actually one but that’s what I would call three years later). Through his characters Nero touched on just about every aspect of the black community, from the broad topics of AIDS and the misconception in the gay community to drugs and black male marginalization The book is so heavily themed that Mr Nero went so far as to help us out with a Reading Group companion at the back of the novel.
Johnny, star of the football team and fine as aged wine , is the son of a pastor and who we can say is the black sheep of his family. Johnny met Tonya in high school and the two became and item. Tonya is ‘ms Attitude’ embodied and have big dreams of making something of herself in the ghetto. They met, carried on for a little while but then Johnny got arrested when in one of his rage he almost killed Tonya’s ex boyfriend and was sent to Sierra Leone, and no, not the Diamond land in Africa but a real tuff, don’t drop the soap, full of African American males prison. This was where Johnny met James. Completing this triangle is the self assured, openly gay, fabulous James. While in prison Johnny and James became real close and the repressed, johnny who had his heart broken when he found out Tonya was cheating on him with a rapper while he is serving time, started to develop something that was deep and far from platonic with the fabulous drag queen. James was soon released from prison, followed by Johnny Tonya is no longer with the rapper and her sole focus now is to reunite with johnny who she claimed was the love of her life. What happen next…?
…the author takes the reader through the minds of the characters individually, allowing us to understand what drives them, what fuels their passion. Narrating the story from a three person perspective had the advantage of clearing up a lot of stuff for the readers that could not otherwise be revealed through a third party point of view. I felt like I can sympathize with them, can cry with them, be angry with and for them. There is just so much soul and passion in this novel one cannot help but become a personal cheerleader for at least one of the characters before the novel ended.
The Language is Raw and Nero did not sugar coat the realities of growing up and surviving in the ghettos of Philly. I actually read this book in paperback and had a damn difficult time slipping it to work and trying to cop a read when my boss was out of sight. It was just that engaging. The realities of AIDS in the black community is so real that I felt like I needed to go to the clinic after completing the novel. Knowing is everything. The misconception that the virus is a homosexual disease is explored and the stereotypes blasted away. Nero also touched on another major killer in the black community. DRUGS. I particularly loved how he showed the destruction of the family unit and the street respect to be gained from pushing drugs. There were also the themes of Male marginalization, young men in prisons and how ‘the system’ dealt to them. Through Tonya, Nero revealed a little on portrayal of women in Rap music culture, The bigger the booty and how well you can shake it determines the amount of singles on the floor at the end of the night. Women were not generalized in this novel though, we did get a glimpse, through Tonya’s friend that Black girls do go to college and not all of them had to work the pole for a dollar. There are so many things going on this book I would need more than one blog post to cover them all.