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.
"Don't Cry for Me a perfect song: the epistolary dirge of a man singing to his son as he faces death by cancer. At turns intense and funny, tender and brutally honest, Jacob’s letter to his son, Isaac, is revelatory. While the story is an unflinching account of a family and a community in the Black American Midwest coming of age in the modern now, it is also full of that which makes us all human, regardless of where we are from or who we are: full of fathers trying to understand sons, sons trying to understand fathers, parents feeling as if they have failed children, children realizing how they have passed their own traumas on to others and so on. It’s a beautiful book. Read it.”
“Daniel Black has written a book that is so dearly needed and has been needed for generations. For anyone who cares about Black men, gender, sexuality, and healing, this book is a balm that helps connect the dots between legacies of oppression and opportunities to change course. With elegant and potent prose, he takes us to the past while marking the path to a future where men, boys, and all people become more fully connected to their humanity and divinity. Don't Cry for Me is at moments hard to read but harder to put down. Do yourself and future generations a favor by reading this beautiful literary work.”
—L’heureux Lewis-McCoy, author of Inequality in the Promised Land
“In Daniel Black’s Don't Cry for Me, we’re reminded that consequential movement is always happening whether we like it or not. Black manages to capture, and really free characters, scenes, and so much subtext we’ve felt, but rarely seen or heard in American literature. The book is unafraid of the pungent slivers of joy and those dazzling shards of horror that accompany loneliness and progress. Don't Cry for Me is literally the book my favorite books needed to read. It is an unparalleled literary achievement that already feels like it will, of all things, endure.”
—Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy: An American Memoir
"With clarity and a compelling depth of character, Daniel Black continues the tradition of the epistolary in Don’t Cry for Me. This letter from Jacob to his son Isaac gives the reader eyes in two directions, seeing the world behind Jacob and what lies ahead for his son. Jacob, at the end of his life, offers a glimpse back through his family history and the lessons, regrets, and achievements of a black family in America. He also looks over Isaac’s shoulder, imagining the life ahead. What history will repeat? What can they leave behind? This letter, its memories, and conversations give a panorama of this family where the history and the future combine through the impactful storytelling of a gifted writer. Daniel Black continues to show a compelling combination of then and now—residual racial histories and the present moment of his characters."
— Ravi Howard, author of Like Trees, Walking and Driving the King
"Don’t Cry For Me is a beautiful, thoughtful novel about living and dying. It's the coming of age story reimagined. As he did with The Coming, Daniel Black has exploded boundaries and rendered binaries obsolete. His language is deceptively simple. What looks like a letter from a father to his son turns out to be a novel about transformation and identity and family and love and land and history and ancestry and reading and thinking and learning and being. The seams of this narrative never show. That is the skill and care of craftsmanship."
—Dana Williams, Professor of African American Literature and Chair Department of English, Howard University
“Don't Cry For Me shows Daniel Black at the top of his writerly craft. In this painful yet profound novel, Black forces us to grapple with our deepest male fears, pains, taboos, and desires. At the same time, he dares us to imagine new and freer selves. This magical text is one of the most beautiful and important books of this young century."
—Marc Lamont Hill, author of Nobody: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond
“Don't Cry for Me is a riveting, courageous portrait of what ails Black families around issues of gender and sexuality. The narrative, a long letter from an apologetic dying father to his estranged gay son, lays bare the devastating consequences of pervasive toxic masculinity norms in American culture, including African American communities. The novel is also an invitation for healing from family secrets, denials and abuse."
—Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Founding Director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center and Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies at Spelman College
“In the Swinton family, manhood is a priceless treasure passed from father to son, a litany of strength, work, dominance, stoic quiet, passion for duty - until Isaac is born, who cannot be man like his father Jacob, who ignites a war for both their souls that spreads through decades, across a continent, and into every corner of their lives. Whatever you believe about the truth of inherited lessons, Daniel Black's new novel will haunt you with the certainty that we are shadowed by our past, the sons of imperfect fathers, and the heirs of pain and beauty. This is a rich novel, full of grace, steeped in truth, a journey to be remembered.”
—Jim Grimsley, author of Dream Boy and How I Shed My Skin
"Don’t Cry for Me sits readers at the lonesome bedside of a dying black man who reckons with the paradox of age-old unforgiveness and new found hope. Fighting through the fatigue of death-dealing disease and the sheer exhaustion of penning untold truths, the protagonist leads readers on a transgenerational journey from a son’s heartache and a brother’s grief to a husband’s regret and a father’s quest for redemption. Once again, Daniel Black crafts a truly immersive reading experience… my breaths grew more shallow with each turned page."
—Gregory C. Ellison II, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and author of Cut Dead but Still Alive and Fearless Dialogues: A New Movement for Justice