No ashes in the fire Coming of age black & free in America

Darnell L. Moore, 1976-

Book - 2018

"When Darnell L. Moore was fourteen years old, three boys from his neighborhood tried to set him on fire as he was walking home from school. Darnell was tall and awkward and constantly bullied for being gay. That afternoon, one of the boys doused him with gasoline and tried lighting a match. It was too windy, and luckily Darnell's aunt arrived in time to grab Darnell and pull him to safety. It was not the last time he would face death. What happens to the black boys who come of age in ...neglected, poor, heavily policed, and economically desperate cities that the War on Drugs and mass incarceration have created? How do they learn to live, love, and grow up? Darnell was raised in Camden, NJ, the son of two teenagers on welfare struggling to make ends meet. He explored his sexuality during the height of the AIDS epidemic, when being gay was a death sentence. He was beaten down and ignored by white and black America, by his school, and even his church, the supposed place of sanctuary. He made it out, but as he quickly learned, escaping Camden, escaping poverty, and coming out do not guarantee you freedom. It wasn't until Darnell was pushed into the spotlight at a Newark rally after the murder of a young queer woman that he found his voice and his calling. He became a leading organizer with Black Lives Matter, a movement that recognized him and insisted that his life mattered. In recovering the beauty, joy, and love in his own life, No Ashes in the Fire gives voice to the rich, varied experiences of all those who survive on the edges of the margins. In the process, he offers a path toward liberation"--

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New York : Nation Books 2018.
First edition
Physical Description
vii, 242 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 241-242).
Main Author
Darnell L. Moore, 1976- (author)
  • Passage
  • Ripples
  • Magic
  • Touch
  • Run
  • Unbecoming
  • Return
  • Lessons.
Review by Booklist Reviews

This coming-of-age memoir cum meditation is the introspective story of a man in search of self. Each of its chapters is what the author calls "snapshots of my life and an attempt at traversing time in search of the lessons I now know were present." If this sounds didactic, it is not. Instead, it is a cultural and political history that examines and defies the stereotypes of black life in America. Universal truths are expressed in an individual life that begins in Camden, New Jersey, where the author came from an extended, loving family of 11, realizing at an early age that he was gay and understanding that black queer life is one of solitary confinement and that his power lies in his dreams. But dreams die, Moore says, if they are consigned to the imagination only. They are seeds that must be planted for survival. And Moore is a survivor, gradually coming to terms with his homosexuality and finally finding himself in selfless service to others. His story is an inspiration. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Journalist Moore opens this courageous yet emotional debut memoir by sharing sacred recollections about his beloved family; he reflects on dance battles, barbecues, and family secrets. An honest and brave storyteller, Moore weaves a narrative reminiscent of Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me, offering details about his relationship with an abusive father and his feelings of helplessness after finding out that his great-grandmother Elpernia lost her home. An insightful portrayal of inner-city Camden, NJ, during the 1970s and 1980s is evident throughout this coming-of-age story, in which readers are able to follow the author's journey, from being harassed by neighborhood boys to enduring a stroke at age 19 and coming to terms with his sexuality. After overcoming many obstacles, Moore later focused on becoming a champion for social justice and organizing the Black Lives Matter movement. VERDICT Moore's commentary on racism, sexual orientation, and inequality makes this a must-read for our current social climate. Memoir and biography fans will eagerly consume this complex and varied account.—Cassandra Ifie, Itawamba Community Coll., Tupelo, MS Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Moore, an editor-at-large at the content distributor Urban One and a columnist at Logo, describes his bold and candid memoir as "snapshots of my life," molded by forces of "brutality, poverty, and self-hatred." During the 1980s, he is one of a family of 11 in a three-bedroom home in Camden, N.J.; he shares memories of barbecues, dance contests, hip-hop music, and dark family secrets. One grim secret is his abusive father, a regular resident of jails in the 1970s and '80s, who routinely abused his wife. Moore's most eye-opening event occurred when neighborhood boys yelled gay slurs at the 14-year-old Moore and tried to set him on fire before an aunt came to the rescue. At age 19, Moore suffered a near-fatal heart attack, which quickened his resolve to succeed at Seton Hall University even while dealing with the stigma of being gay. Moore offers insightful comments on racism and sexual identity throughout ("The consequences of black queer desire seemed more lethal than poetic. And I did everything in my power to resist becoming what I sensed society hated"); eventually, he moved past self-hatred to a firm commitment to service and activism as a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement. Moore's well-crafted book is a stunning tribute to affirmation, forgiveness, and healing—and serves as an invigorating emotional tonic. (June) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

From a leading journalist and activist comes a brave, beautifully wrought memoir.

When Darnell Moore was fourteen, three boys from his neighborhood tried to set him on fire. They cornered him while he was walking home from school, harassed him because they thought he was gay, and poured a jug of gasoline on him. He escaped, but just barely. It wasn't the last time he would face death.

Three decades later, Moore is an award-winning writer, a leading Black Lives Matter activist, and an advocate for justice and liberation. In No Ashes in the Fire, he shares the journey taken by that scared, bullied teenager who not only survived, but found his calling. Moore's transcendence over the myriad forces of repression that faced him is a testament to the grace and care of the people who loved him, and to his hometown, Camden, NJ, scarred and ignored but brimming with life. Moore reminds us that liberation is possible if we commit ourselves to fighting for it, and if we dream and create futures where those who survive on society's edges can thrive.

No Ashes in the Fire is a story of beauty and hope-and an honest reckoning with family, with place, and with what it means to be free.