Oh, this book broke my heart. But in a good way, because the powerful and profound message it delivers speaks the truth. It is raw. It is brilliant. It is deeply affecting. It is impossible to read this book and not feel stunned by it.
Niru is 18 and in his senior year at an unnamed elite high school in Washington, D.C. that is located on the grounds of the Washington National Cathedral. (St. Alban's School, obviously, but it's not named as such.) His best friend is Meredith, who goes to National Cathedral School (again, not named). She loves Niru…actually, she is in love with Niru. Life is good. Both come from incredibly wealthy, successful and powerful families. Niru has been accepted to Harvard early decision, and he is a star on the school's track team. But he is harboring a deep secret, one that is tearing him apart. He confesses it to Meredith: He is gay. When his very strict, very conservative Nigerian parents discover his secret, Niru's world is shattered. His parents, who are deeply appalled and genuinely distressed, do everything they can to "correct" what they perceive as a deep-seated character flaw. And then tragedy strikes and changes everything. Because no matter how brilliant, kind and talented he may be, Niru is still a scary black man in the eyes of so many.
Written by Uzodinma Iweala, this short book's strength is twofold: vivid, true-to-life characters and mesmerizing storytelling. I was completely immersed in the story, almost as if I had crawled inside the book and become a part of it. The result is a treasure that will stay with me for some time.
Bonus: Read the acknowledgements at the end—totally worth your time.