By James Earl Hardy
Indeed, Pride Month is here, and James Earl Hardy, like the late E. Lynn Harris, is a literary trailblazer in the arena of portraying Black LGBT characters and their lives and loves. Since his novel B-Boy Blues was launched in 1994, I have followed the series and the lives of its main characters Raheim (Pooquie) Rivers, Jr. and his partner Mitchell (Little Bit) Crawford through their challenges and successes, the “jood” and the bad (FYI, “jood” is a term coined by Hardy meaning “better than good.”).
His latest novel, Men of the House, centers around Raheim’s son, Raheim Errol Rivers, III (aka Errol, Li’l Brotha Man). At 15, Errol is coming into his own as the straight son in the modern blended family of his father Raheim Jr., Mitchell, and Mitchell’s five-year-old daughter Destiny. With his best friends Roe and Sid, and his older girlfriend Max, Errol is in many respects a Renaissance Man in the milieu of New York City.
Having skipped two grades, Errol is now a senior in high school, ready to embark on college. Whether it’s dealing with some homophobic relatives, shutting down Baloney Maloneys, finding ways to be a supportive friend, testing boundaries, or just down for some jood times, Errol can be wise beyond his years, yet at other times he is still a 15-year-old with so much to learn.
Hardy takes us back to the New York City of the mid-2000s, and through the lense of a teenager we examine the issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, erasure, and The Talk that African American parents have with their sons, plus words of wisdom Errol receives throughout the story from his assorted elders, especially his two dads. He keeps you turning those pages, balancing the progress LGBT families have made with the work that still needs to be done.
I take my hat off to James Earl Hardy for a most engaging read in the continuation of his B-Boy Blues series. If we don’t share our stories, who will?