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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Will I Always Be A __ In America? A Black Man's Reflections on Living in America by John A. Reaves is a collection of the author's essays on what it means to be a black man in a country where racial disparity is still so shockingly prevalent. Reaves takes moments from his own life experience in the weaving of ten stand-alone pieces and brings them to life in a first-person narrative. While the compilation shares a common theme, the stories themselves have the strength to stand firmly on their own as Reaves covers a range of events, such as the unexpected passing of his father and the questions it poses about inequality within healthcare in We Want to Live, to prejudices male children of color face in an educational system that instinctively pushes them down to lower rungs of an already disadvantaged setting that's segregated by economics in Reimagining America's Education System: Race Must Be a Factor. The anthology concludes with The Spirit of Living as a Black Man in America with Reaves' powerful assertion, “As a Black man, I do not just want to keep rolling along; I want to fly.”
There's something incredibly personal about reading an individual's experiences that is just so much more poignant than when you hear it. It's like seeing the words on a page makes it tangible. It cannot be ignored or brushed aside when it is right there in your hands. John A. Reaves touched me in a way that, even as a man of color myself, resonated a bit more deeply in Will I Always Be A ___ In America? The book itself is short but it packs a big enough punch that I had to unpack a lot of what I read afterward. With a daughter myself, I loved the piece titled Power to the Black Women, where Reaves professes his admiration for the resilience of the women in both his own life and in ours, but it was Colorism and People of Color that brought me back to the days of watching my mother smear Fair and Lovely across her skin in a daily ritual that breaks my heart to this day. Reaves is profoundly honest and poses questions within his prose that provoke thought and force difficult meditation on uncomfortable—and frequently deadly—realities. This is a fantastic book that deserves a wide readership and I hope it receives it. Very highly recommended.