Strivers Row: A Novel
This is the third book in a triology;something I didn't realize until I got too far in reading this book. It basically takes you back to the earlier days when racisim was more prevelant and intergration was just a thought. It took me months to read this book. Sometimes I felt like giving up 'cause there wa This is the third book in a triology;something I didn't realize until I got too far in reading this book.
Sometimes I felt like giving up 'cause there was so much details of each character in the book but I held out Sep 22, Bill rated it really liked it. Strivers Row is the third of Baker's City of Fire trilogy. The earlier books are Dreamland and Paradise Alley. All take place in New York City. Strivers Row is a neighborhood housing upper and middle class Negro families including the Doves. Malcolm is a young hustler. At a time after the war and beyond the book's time period, Malcolm will become Malcol Strivers Row is the third of Baker's City of Fire trilogy.
At a time after the war and beyond the book's time period, Malcolm will become Malcolm X. Baker is an excellent researcher who organizes hundreds of facts and insights about life in Harlem during the war. He reveals his many sources in a seven page Acknowledgments, and a Note On Sources, at the end of the novel. Harlem is a major character. The plot addresses the intertwined lives of Malcolm and Jonah. Baker accomplishes this by alternating chapters entitled "Malcolm" or "Jonah" and uses the chapters to provide new insights about the respective men and to develop the plot.
Baker does not follow a strict chapter alternation; Malcolm dominates and two or more consecutive chapters frequently are devoted to him. Malcolm comes from a family of 10 counting half brothers and half sisters. The family following its father's death almost starves. It is Malcolm's job to go to the local slaughter house to fight other boys for discarded animal lungs. He is elected class president and looks forward to career counseling. Jonah and Malcolm meet on a train where Malcolm is employed selling sandwiches from a cart pushed down the aisle. Malcolm fights and saves Jonah from a beating by drunken white soldiers.
After the fight, Malcolm jumps off the stopped train and dives into water. Neither man knows the other, even the other's name. Malcolm begins life in Harlem as a waiter in Small's Bar. Small has bribed a local detective, but is very concerned that other vice squad cops might discover his many illegal activities. He strongly cautions Malcolm to stay within the law. Malcolm does not and directs a soldier to a prostitute. Small fires him and tells him to stay out of the bar.
All is not lost. Malcolm dances extraordinarily exuberantly with Miranda, a white woman. They leave and have outstanding sex. Malcolm is obsessively smitten. After Small's Malcolm turns to various hustles including running numbers, selling dope and working as a john walker, taking white men to black whores. He dreams of making enough money to take Miranda off to Hollywood. Jonah regards himself to be pampered failure. He is the head preacher at his father's church, but can not excite and motivate his congregation.
After the train fight he believes he can not protect his wife. He is light skinned and at college passed for white for several months.
His greatest failure was being found out. Occasionally, he passes for white again to see his sister, Sophia, in the Village, who is also passing. He is very interested and almost haunted by the book but he does not stop hustling. Baker points out in the Acknowledgments that Malcolm would later, again beyond this book's scope, use his redemption from crime as a central theme in the Autobiography of Malcolm X.
Strivers Row is pages long. My interest was kept throughout except for the description of Elijah Muhammad's life and theology. Never trust a white man is a main point in that theology. Malcolm, Jonah and Miranda dramatically come together. An excellent book, you will feel as if you are in Harlem.
Jan 13, Rick rated it it was ok Shelves: The third novel in a trilogy about New York City by historical novelist Kevin Baker is the weakest of the three. It has the usual mix of fictional and non-fictional characters. But the most significant of the historical characters is a young hustler named Malcolm Little, or Detroit Red. We also get various jazz musicians, street criminals West Indian Archie , and the founders of the Nation of Islam. Baker is a The third novel in a trilogy about New York City by historical novelist Kevin Baker is the weakest of the three.
Baker is a good storyteller but not a gifted stylist, nor blessed with a great ear for dialogue. He can research the different argots associated with the various groups white upper class college students, middle class African-Americans, hustlers, jazz musicians, ministers, etc. In a tauter narrative you might not have noticed the tin-ear but this one treads water for many pages and does so in a way where time seems to be operating in different speeds: Plus there are bizarre reversals, from fearlessness to paranoid double dealer being hounded from his routes by shadows and scavenging addicts.
It is less compelling than Paradise Alley and less sure of itself than Dreamland. Strivers Row is a novel about the wholly fictitious Rev. Jonah Dove and a young Malcolm Little whose paths cross and recross during the summer of But the primary character is Harlem. Servicemen - white and colored - on leave.
Strivers Row and Sugar Hill. This is a big book and the CD production, read by Thomas Anthony Penny, does it justice with each of the 18 CDs beginning and endin Strivers Row is a novel about the wholly fictitious Rev. This is a big book and the CD production, read by Thomas Anthony Penny, does it justice with each of the 18 CDs beginning and ending with a plaintive saxophone setting the mood. There is violence and tenderness, kindness and betrayal. It is and there is a war going on - overseas and at home. White policemen, on horses and on motorcycles, patrol Harlem, together with MPs, protecting soldiers on leave from Harlem residents who increasingly resent their presence.
And there are internal wars as both Jonah and Malcolm struggle to find racial pride - Jonah lightskinned enough to pass if he chooses, and Malcolm, after learning what he can't do in the white dominated world, wearing his zoot, hair conked, becoming Detroit Red. Strivers Row is a fast moving book, hard to stop. The CD version is such a treat for the senses, with rich use of slang, bits of songs, names of people and places.
This is historical fiction at its best. The church grew and prospered under its charismatic leader. Jonah has done what he was supposed to do and has become the church's pastor, not entirely sure he wants to be a minister, believing he does not have the power of his father, still alive in his 90s. While Jonah struggles in his father's shadow, Malcolm struggles to become a man in the absence of his father. He is intelligent and charming but learns as a young boy that despite his abilities, his dream of becoming a lawyer is not possible. He leaves Michigan, first for Boston, and then, working as a dining car porter, arrives in Harlem.
He works at Small's for a while, then runs numbers for West Indian Archie. He meets and believes he loves a white club singer. He smokes a lot of dope. And he is visited by a little brown man named Elijah who comes and goes mysteriously. I loved this book. I felt completely immersed in its world. Every character was fully drawn and believable. It is still hard to believe that Jonah never actually lived.
And I have mixed feelings about Malcolm; author Kevin Baker has fictionalized the early years of Malcolm X, especially his interest in the Nation of Islam. This works as a piece of fiction, but I found it disconcerting that one of the two main characters was completely made up while the other was a real person, distorted. Aug 20, Stephanie Gannon rated it really liked it. In vivid detail Baker tells the story of the dramatic early life of Malcolm X--depicting, among other things, his coming to terms with his mother's madness and his hustling in the vibrant underground world of wartime Harlem.
I love the way that he interweaves Malcolm's narrative with Jonah's. Jonah is the reluctant heir to one of Harlem's historic black churches. Over the course of the novel he struggles with his call, with being A wonderfully-written historical novel set in Harlem during WWII. Over the course of the novel he struggles with his call, with being a light-skinned black man who can pass for "white," and in his marriage to his seemingly perfect preacher's wife.
By the end of the novel Jonah steps into his ministry and becomes a leading voice against racism and prejudice in a riot-torn Harlem. A very memorable read that has me thinking about how disenfranchised people fight back against systemic injustice.
The Strivers' Row Spy (Renaissance #1) by Jason Overstreet
The edition I read also has a suggested walking tour in the back with notes Baker provides. Given how gentrified Harlem has become it's probably harder and harder to find very many traces of the great Harlem of the first half of the 20th century Baker re-imagines in his novel. Oct 25, Judith rated it really liked it. Milton Dove, son of the interracial couple in the second book, Paradise Alley, had founded the Church of New Jerusalem, built it with the faith and hard work of his people, bought the big house on Strivers Row in Harlem and brought up his son Jonah, ever in the shadow of the famous preacher, to carry it on.
Malcolm Little, a colored boy already too big for his petty hustling life, happens on Jonah and his wife while serving sandwiches on a train. Drunk white soldiers are threatening the couple with violence, so Malcolm turns the sandwich box into a weapon, fights off the whole bunch of them, calls the MPs, and tops off his performance with a swan dive into Buzzards Bay in full view of all the passengers and train crew. Jun 19, Kate rated it really liked it. I think Kevin Baker is one of the finest writers of historical fiction I've ever encountered.
He is both a great storyteller, and an astute historical researcher. One of the potential pitfalls of historical fiction is that it's all too easy for a writer to sacrifice story in order to accommodate all the fascinating and important facts that have surfaced in the course of research. Baker successfully avoids that trap in all three volumes of his City of Fire trilogy. He is able to weave an at times I think Kevin Baker is one of the finest writers of historical fiction I've ever encountered.
He is able to weave an at times almost mystical, yet wholly credible, account of Harlem in the s without, apparently, making anything up. I was prepared to find his idea of using the young Malcolm X Malcolm Little, as he was known at the time as a primary character to be too ambitious, and to fall flat; I was wrong.
The character of Malcolm is very sensitively drawn, with a judicious mixture of bravado and naivete. Although the book stands on its own, it does have particularly strong ties to the first volume of the trilogy, Paradise Alley , which I would recommend reading first. Fans of historical fiction. Author Kevin Baker takes and immense risk in his latest novel - Striver's Row.
This is risk is not about the subject, nor time period and location. Rather it is his choice of main character. In his latest installment Baker provides a glimpse in to the mindset of a young, cavalier, Malcolm Little - the man who would later be known to the world as Malcolm X. As we discover the marvels of 's Harlem through the eyes of young Malcolm we are introduced to the makings of this future civil rights le Author Kevin Baker takes and immense risk in his latest novel - Striver's Row. As we discover the marvels of 's Harlem through the eyes of young Malcolm we are introduced to the makings of this future civil rights leader.
Likewise, we follow the life of a Baptist Preacher named Jonah, who struggles with the notion of abandoning his flock and race. The book is a wonderful excercise in imagination and ingenuity. The insertion of historical facts and figures, ands to the general atmosphere of the story. While it slow in tempo during the the third act, it is quickly regained and thouroughly followed through. All in all, it is an excellent and inventive story that is worth a read. Yet some critics saw this panoramic history as too ambitious while at the same time fa The novel is daring in capturing the mood and history of New York's blacks, particularly since the author is white.
Feb 25, Stacielynn rated it it was ok Shelves: I had high hopes for this novel. What a compelling era. But what a flop. It was disjointed and annoying in its structure. I am generally perfectly okay with bouncing among narrators, but this did not work for me.
The transitions were not smooth and there were gaps in the characters' stories that might not have occurred in a different structure. I believe, too, that the lack of a sympathetic character was fatal. I couldn't bring myself to care for the selfish, violent, careless, and unambitious p I had high hopes for this novel.
The Strivers' Row Spy
I couldn't bring myself to care for the selfish, violent, careless, and unambitious people in this book. I realize it is the third in a series and maybe reading the whole series would give a different impression, but this book did not make me want to go back to the beginning to see. Feb 23, Judy rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Recommended to Judy by: Friend in book club in library. A complex fictionalized history of Harlem NY in the s during the world war 2.
Begins with Imaginary encounter between Malcolm Little and Jonah Dove whos wife is being harassed by soldiers on a train. Malcolm insinuates in some ways to be a young Malcolm X but not him as far as I know intervenes and gets soldiers thrown off the train. Chapters alternate between the character of Malcolm Little struggling to make it and enjoy life in the Harlem of the day and Jonah, a deeply self doubting lead A complex fictionalized history of Harlem NY in the s during the world war 2.
Chapters alternate between the character of Malcolm Little struggling to make it and enjoy life in the Harlem of the day and Jonah, a deeply self doubting leader of a prestigious church in Harlem as time goes on, and how their lives intertwine occasionally after the incident on the train. So full of things I cannot begin to describe. A fairly accurate view of politics though it appears cynical. Jan 07, Howard rated it liked it. If you are a fan of this genre historical fiction, more specifically 40s NYC, Harlem this is worth reading.
But personally I didn't feel this was nearly as good as the first two in the trilogy. Part of the reason may be that the bar was set very high - Dreamland and Paradise Alley are both phenomenal. The third in Kevin Baker's cinematic trilogy spotlighting momentous episodes in the history of New York City, Strivers Row brings to vivid life all that was Harlem in the country in the midst of war overseas, the city seething with crime, poverty and politics fueled by racism.
As a teenager, Malcolm Little escapes from Lansing, Michigan, to Harlem, where amazingly he discovers color everywhere. When Jonah is harassed by a group of intoxicated white soldiers, Malcolm intervenes the first of several times their paths will fortuitously cross. Malcolm's newfound world leads him to the roles of hustler, numbers runner and drug dealer, with forays into the writings of the nation of Islam that gradually lead to his transformation into Malcolm X.
Jonah lives on Strivers Row, the formerly white enclave now populated by blacks on the rise. The son of a biracial preacher, Jonah is losing his ability to preach; he's depressed by the poverty surrounding him and horrified by stories of the genocide of Jews overseas. Encompassing these two loosely connected portraits is Baker's kaleidoscopic evocation of Harlem itself.