Thursday, March 22, 2007

[Book Review] THE DAY EAZY-E DIED by James Earl Hardy

Fiction/African-American Gay & Lesbian

Jason Ezell reviews THE DAY EAZY-E DIED by James Earl Hardy (Alyson Books, 2001)

Raheim Rivers enjoys growing success, both in his career as a rising male supermodel and in his private life as a son, father, friend, and lover. As he becomes increasingly famous, the lives of other male African-American celebrities take on a new veneer of reality, and when Raheim hears that a hero of his, Eazy-E, has been diagnosed with AIDS, the news hits painfully close to home. Realizing he is possibly jeopardizing not only his own life, but that of his lover, Little Bit, and all those relationships he has fought so hard to nurture, he decides that he, in good conscience, must get tested. The tension created by undergoing, practically alone, testing and waiting for the results while continuing to act as if everything is normal, takes its toll on Raheim's psyche. The process, though, leads him to greater levels of honesty and intimacy with those he loves, further fortifying a family that may seem far from conventional to some readers.

One of the book's most powerful qualities is Raheim's highly realistic and conversational voice, giving the story an engaging immediacy. The chapters are short and so the reader is able to move quickly through the plot as if he or she is being told the events first-hand. Hardy also achieves an uncommon balance in the story by refusing to let any single issue--such as sexuality, illness or race--dominate the thematics of the novel; each of these intense concerns must take its place in a naturally complicated relation with other concerns. The emphasis on voice and social issues ensures that the novel's primary focus is on the details of personal relationships and how the influences of a larger society can be seen to emerge in these individual experiences. Despite the potential the subject matter has for shock value, Hardy chooses instead to present a character completely capable of bravely and skillfully confronting the complications of his life and turning them into positive and productive experiences--all without resorting to the graphic, militant, or pessimistic.

Jason Ezell, Humanities Department

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