cover image What Color Is Your Hoodie? Essays on Black Gay Identity

What Color Is Your Hoodie? Essays on Black Gay Identity

Jarrett Neal. Chelsea Station(, $18 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-937627-22-5

Neal's extremely personal collection of 13 essays on the experience of growing up and living as a gay black man in America, "imprisoned between the world's envy and its scorn," exudes a frankness bordering on social awkwardness. This is largely because his tone distances the reader as a curious outsider to the experience, with a voice that is strangely academic against the intimacy of topics like Neil's awakening to the beauty of the male body as a teen, his choices in pornography, his family's reaction to his voluntary circumcision as a young adult, or his shattered hopes around Barack Obama. But Neal's strong embrace of the personal as political and of popular media as culturally critical also drives him to explore queer racism and black homophobia, class conflict, and the effects of marginalization on self-esteem and self-expression. Though Neal has a unique insightfulness about often-unexamined experiences, his essays are a lecture where a coffee date belongs, or an interview with an anthropologist in the place of coffee with a friend. Moments of the collection shine as either memoir or sociological treatise, but the attempt to combine the two feels like a disconnected exercise. (Sept.)