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BOYZ N THE VOID by G'Ra Asim Kirkus Star


A Mixtape to My Brother

by G'Ra Asim

Pub Date: May 11th, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-8070-5948-7
Publisher: Beacon Press

A Black millennial shares life lessons with his younger brother through the lens of punk rock.

Asim, a writer, musician, professor of nonfiction writing, and punk aficionado, feels a kinship with his younger brother Gyasi, in part because they are both “difficult,” and that “natural recalcitrance is the seed of punk sensibility.” The author, who has never viewed his embrace of punk as antithetical to his Blackness, addresses his 10-chapter narrative to Gyasi, an intelligent, artistic teen on the cusp of college who “predominantly lurks indoors like some Wi-Fi–empowered Boo Radley.” Asim writes to Gyasi in hopes that “a robust engagement with counterculture can serve as a vital antidote to soul-sucking normalcy.” The author’s mixtape is “part Nick Hornsby, part Ntozake Shange: my All-Time, Top-10 Angst-Neutralizing Punk Songs Because the Rainbow Clearly Isn’t Enuf, Bruh.” The product of “a poor, Black, bohemian family of quixotic values” in a “hyperliterate household,” Asim delivers erudite prose that will appeal to readers across generations who want a fresh lens through which to consider a range of topics, including mental wellness, childhood sexual abuse, masculinity and male feminism, sex and sexuality, racism, and respectability politics. Asim also considers the relationship between punk and Afrofuturism, another conduit for “critical examination of dreary, unquestioned norms.” Whether he’s discussing Black Lives Matter or the influential all-Black punk band Bad Brains, whose “lasting cultural resonance cannot be dismissed,” Asim’s astute social commentary, poignant storytelling, wit, and solid music criticism will appeal to punk and nonpunk readers alike. Here, the punk scene is no panacea, and Asim offers critique alongside celebration. Overall, his message to Gyasi is frank and hopeful: “I urgently want you to know that the living here can be good even if it’s never easy.”

Part memoir, part rebel yell of a love letter to idiosyncratic young Black men trying to find their ways in the world.