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No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America

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From a leading journalist and activist comes a brave, beautifully wrought survival story of navigating childhood during the height of the AIDS and crack epidemics, searching for intimacy and love as a young gay man, and ultimately finding a calling fighting for justice and liberation in the Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ movements. When Darnell L. Moore was fourteen years ol From a leading journalist and activist comes a brave, beautifully wrought survival story of navigating childhood during the height of the AIDS and crack epidemics, searching for intimacy and love as a young gay man, and ultimately finding a calling fighting for justice and liberation in the Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ movements. 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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From a leading journalist and activist comes a brave, beautifully wrought survival story of navigating childhood during the height of the AIDS and crack epidemics, searching for intimacy and love as a young gay man, and ultimately finding a calling fighting for justice and liberation in the Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ movements. When Darnell L. Moore was fourteen years ol From a leading journalist and activist comes a brave, beautifully wrought survival story of navigating childhood during the height of the AIDS and crack epidemics, searching for intimacy and love as a young gay man, and ultimately finding a calling fighting for justice and liberation in the Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ movements. 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.

30 review for No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    4.5 stars "Memory is a tricky force, especially when brutality, poverty, self-hatred, and many other unseen hands, which turn beautiful people into the monsters and victims, dictate what we remember." Wow! This was a very eloquent, courageous, personal, and beautifully written memoir. This first thing that got my attention was his beautiful writing, followed closely by the courage and strength it took to be so open and honest. Darnell Moore was once a frightened young man living in a home filled w 4.5 stars "Memory is a tricky force, especially when brutality, poverty, self-hatred, and many other unseen hands, which turn beautiful people into the monsters and victims, dictate what we remember." Wow! This was a very eloquent, courageous, personal, and beautifully written memoir. This first thing that got my attention was his beautiful writing, followed closely by the courage and strength it took to be so open and honest. Darnell Moore was once a frightened young man living in a home filled with domestic violence and uncertainty. He was fourteen years old when three boys from his neighborhood tried to set him on fire. Imagine for a minute just how frightening that must have been. To have gasoline poured over you and to watch as someone attempts to light match after match. I cannot even begin to image how frightening that must have been for him. Today he is an award-winning writer, activist, and a leader in the Movement for Black Lives. No Ashes in the Fires details his life growing up in Camden, New Jersey in the 70's to his life now in the present. His parents were teenagers when he was born, and he details his upbringing and his families struggles. One of the parts of this book which shined for me was when he was describing his father's hands. Moore eloquently showed how his father's hands could be tender and loving, such as when he showed Darnell how to properly bathe and clean his body or when they were at the community pool and his father was teaching him to swim, and yet those same tender and loving hands could inflict pain and damage when used to hit and punch his wife (Darnell's mother). How he struggled with the concept of someone being both loving and abusive. Darnell also talks in detail about his sexuality. How he was bullied because his peers thought that he was gay, how he experimented sexually in secret, how he sought out connection, love and sex. How he didn't feel safe and tried to keep his sexual orientation a secret. Later in the book he shared how he came out to his Mother and learned that she always knew. "Her acceptance was more healing than any prayer, more uplifting than any group counseling session, more powerful than any force of hate I internalized." The Author does not stop there, he details racism, a health issues he experienced when he was younger, identity, domestic violence, family, community, hope, determination, acceptance, love, equality, sexual orientation, and self-love. He opens the pages of his life, so to speak, he lays it bare, for us to read - the good, the bad and the ugly. He shows us the events in his life that led him to be the man he is today. His writing is deeply personal and beautiful. I highly recommend this book. Thank you to Perseus Books and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. See more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    "Black same-sex love is revolutionary because we must first convince ourselves we are deserving of receiving and giving what has been denied us for so long.” I love the kind of memoirs where the writer is so open and honest and writes with such clarity and insight that you feel like you've made a new friend. That is the way Darnell L. Moore has written No Ashes in the Fire, with such stark and brutal honesty, laying bare his hopes and dreams, sadness and fear and joy and love. Mr. Moore is a "Black same-sex love is revolutionary because we must first convince ourselves we are deserving of receiving and giving what has been denied us for so long.” I love the kind of memoirs where the writer is so open and honest and writes with such clarity and insight that you feel like you've made a new friend. That is the way Darnell L. Moore has written No Ashes in the Fire, with such stark and brutal honesty, laying bare his hopes and dreams, sadness and fear and joy and love. Mr. Moore is a queer Black man and in this memoir he shares what it was like to grow up feeling different, being told by society that your skin is the wrong colour. Being told by society and the church that whom you love is the wrong person. For many years, Mr. Moore hid his true essence, hid the way he felt towards other boys and then other men. He masked his sexuality behind a cloak of religiosity, all the while yearning for the love and affection of another male. He relates the particular struggles he faced, as a black man and as a queer person. He tells of his childhood and relationships with his mother and aunts, the love and strength they gave him. He tells of the abuse they suffered at the hands of his father who at some point disappeared from his life. He strives to understand the man his father was, a man who was unable to love his own family or treat them well. He puts it so eloquently when he writes, "...it is a reckoning with the lived experiences of a black boy who had trouble loving his best friend and their children because he had no sense of the tenderness within him or not enough faith in the love and hope we had for him." Mr. Moore shares how for a long time he was unable to love and accept himself, having internalized the hatred towards his black skin and towards his sexuality that society felt towards him. He articulates the way in which he both sought out men for love and sex and the way in which he pushed them away because of a sense of shame in himself and thus of them. He shares with us the ways in which he finally learned to not just accept himself, but to love himself as well. How to love his blackness and sexuality and thus how to love and see the beauty in other Black and gay peoples as well. This a book about racism, sexuality, police brutality, inequality, and more. It is a plea that we do better. No one should be hated because of who they are. No one should be given less opportunity to succeed because of their skin colour. No one should be made to feel ashamed of who they love. I applaud Darnell L. Moore for delivering such a heartfelt, moving, and powerful memoir. For letting me feel as though I've made a new friend. If you enjoy memoirs or want to learn more about the particular struggles faced by Black people and/or gay people in the US, I highly recommend this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Esil

    Darnell Moore is only in his mid 40s, but his life is definitely already memoir worthy. He is black and gay, and grew up in a poor predominantly black town in New Jersey. There was crazy strong love in his family, but also violence, poverty and addiction. Moore is now an activist, most recently involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. He tells his own story, and also comments more broadly about race, sexuality, class, family and education. Everything he has to say is interesting, but I espec Darnell Moore is only in his mid 40s, but his life is definitely already memoir worthy. He is black and gay, and grew up in a poor predominantly black town in New Jersey. There was crazy strong love in his family, but also violence, poverty and addiction. Moore is now an activist, most recently involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. He tells his own story, and also comments more broadly about race, sexuality, class, family and education. Everything he has to say is interesting, but I especially liked his section dealing with his early education. He was a bright kid in an underfunded school. He fought for recognition as a strong student, and eventually made his way into a private school on a scholarship. He doesn’t tell readers this to bring attention to his brilliance or merit, but rather to emphasize the unfairness of how hard he had to fight and how unique he had to be to get what should be normal and accessible to all poor black kids. He has a lot to say about many other issues. He mixes the personal with the political in a way that works well. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stacie C

    I’m pretty much in love with reading memoirs by Black people right now. Doing so, keeps reassuring me that we, as Black people, are not a monolith and our diversity is something to be celebrated. I want to celebrate Moore after reading his memoir. I want to celebrate him and the amount of growth he experienced from being a young insecure teen, bullied by the other kids in the neighborhood to being an accomplished sexually fluid man who advocates for the rights of Black people and the LGBT commu I’m pretty much in love with reading memoirs by Black people right now. Doing so, keeps reassuring me that we, as Black people, are not a monolith and our diversity is something to be celebrated. I want to celebrate Moore after reading his memoir. I want to celebrate him and the amount of growth he experienced from being a young insecure teen, bullied by the other kids in the neighborhood to being an accomplished sexually fluid man who advocates for the rights of Black people and the LGBT community. It takes a lot of courage to express your truth. Moore’s truth is one filled with overcoming circumstances and learning to accept oneself. Moore had to deal with the physical abuse of his mother, understanding his queerness and levying that with his faith. His is a unique story and I really enjoyed the detail he was willing to include. It showed a level of honesty and introspection that I didn’t expect. The moments I found most sincere were his thoughts about his position in the church and how his position in the patriarchy affected the way he loved and treated others. Moore was able to describe how and why in such a succinct, matter of fact way that can only be a credit to not only introspection but genuine growth and a willingness to change. I would definitely recommend this book. It’s a singular experience that I feel many would be able to relate to. I found Moore’s writing to be exceptional in his descriptive and nuanced style. His story is one that I am grateful I was exposed to. I’ve learned from him and his experience. These are the stories everyone needs to be reading. The stories that may be extremely different from our own but refuse to let us “other” them because they are steeped in the truth of their lived experiences.

  5. 5 out of 5

    J Beckett

    There are memoirs that send the reader into another place or time, often reviving thoughts that were kept deep in their psyche; a secret between them and the God of their understanding. Certainly, this is what Darnell Moore accomplished with No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America, the story of tribulation and triumph; a hopeful spray of a toxic reality that raises questions and quells the darkest of anxieties. Moore walks the readers through Camden, New Jersey during a per There are memoirs that send the reader into another place or time, often reviving thoughts that were kept deep in their psyche; a secret between them and the God of their understanding. Certainly, this is what Darnell Moore accomplished with No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America, the story of tribulation and triumph; a hopeful spray of a toxic reality that raises questions and quells the darkest of anxieties. Moore walks the readers through Camden, New Jersey during a period when music, sex, drugs, and violence defined the country and was religion in his domain. Born to teen parents, living in poverty, and trying to find a place in a place that was no place to raise a child, he was trapped in a hole that was not just sunken but intentionally forgotten. Yet, as is the unknown truth in poorer communities and wholly underappreciated by the unaware, there is elation in the familiar, a feeling that the environment in which one finds oneself becomes a paradise in the grander scheme, becoming the most deleterious safe spot existing. The was Darnell's Camden. The book, in parts, reads like an extended journal, chronicling the episodes of Moore's life, emphasizing his coming of age and the complexity and confusion of teenage sexuality. Growing up in a home with a father who epitomized masculinity and bravado, he was 'forced' to express his 'man.' But for him, there was the pull of the unknown. Hints scattered throughout the narrative are made clear and the conflict of Moore's sexual reality issues in part two of his life. For some, this book may be a challenge to read. Although Moore is cognizant of the exposure of his intimacies, he leaves little to the reader's imagination, but enough to keep a book from being forced or surreal. Moore provides a lesson to those who are coping with internal social issues and sketches a blueprint of the tower of growth, from the ground floor of angst to the penthouse of revelation. And at each floor between were events that shaped, taught, and woke him from illusions. But freedom evaded and equally stalked, revealing paths that would journey him through the muck and open to stillness. No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America is a powerful read; raw, riveting, and honest. It moves along Moore's transitions smoothly and with the ease of an evening breeze. It teaches lessons beyond the page, becoming a mirror able to reflect one's invisibility. It is a story of hope and belief. And with the right support and love, (in this case, it was Moore's mother) undeniable freedom. A jewel of a book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bobbieshiann

    “I am a black man who has loved and been intimate with men and women, a black man who defies societal norms, a black man who grew up in the age of hip-hip and AIDS, and a black man from the hood”. • “Memory is a tricky force, especially when brutality, poverty, self-hatred, and many other unseen hands, which turn beautiful people into monsters and victims, dictate what we remember”. • This is more than just a memoir. This is history, self discovery, understanding, and a story that needs to be told “I am a black man who has loved and been intimate with men and women, a black man who defies societal norms, a black man who grew up in the age of hip-hip and AIDS, and a black man from the hood”. • “Memory is a tricky force, especially when brutality, poverty, self-hatred, and many other unseen hands, which turn beautiful people into monsters and victims, dictate what we remember”. • This is more than just a memoir. This is history, self discovery, understanding, and a story that needs to be told. Darnell Moore is a Black man who opens his heart to us as he shares his encounters and daily struggles growing up in a world were AIDS pointed to gay men, racism still made itself known at every corner, single parent homes, poverty in your face, hatred in your heart, lack of love, overpopulated schools, and running from yourself to fit what society finds acceptable. Hiding your sexuality behind religion and fake relationships because the truth is too real to face, but Darnell found his voice. He became a journalist and an activist who fights for justice for Black lives and the LGTBQ community. He became a man who created space for people who are struggling with coming out and being able to their true self. • P.S. The relationship or lack of relationship Darnell has with his father is so important. It explores hatred but also the understanding of why his father could not be all he wanted from a man. Why his father could cause so much destruction and barley show an ounce of love. This book is something special. Something great.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gabriella

    This one is a 4.5-into-5 stars, and because I want everyone to read it, I will try not to give a summary, as to not spoil anyone’s experience with this revelatory memoir. Darnell Moore’s No Ashes in the Fire is the book we all need to read for Pride month, another year in Trump’s America, college break, family reunion season, and every other day of our lives. He has distilled the very particular experiences of his life in and beyond Camden, New Jersey into a deeply affectionate sermon to the bla This one is a 4.5-into-5 stars, and because I want everyone to read it, I will try not to give a summary, as to not spoil anyone’s experience with this revelatory memoir. Darnell Moore’s No Ashes in the Fire is the book we all need to read for Pride month, another year in Trump’s America, college break, family reunion season, and every other day of our lives. He has distilled the very particular experiences of his life in and beyond Camden, New Jersey into a deeply affectionate sermon to the black folk he has encountered in his city, and in all of ours. After finishing this book, I have to say I am in awe of Moore’s love for those around him—the people who respect him, and even those who have tried to extinguish his light. I was comforted by the way he was forgiving but demanding of the men in his book, in a way someone who truly cares about your survival and wellbeing must be. Moore ties himself to femme-presenting gay men, as well as the hypermasculine men who have been aggressors in his own life. His capacity for forgiveness is linked to his belief in our people, and his refusal to separate their experiences from his own, holding them all accountable and accepted at the very same time. I think the most beautiful part of this memoir is that it shows Moore’s journey to this liberatory sort of love. He encounters the church and its notions of agape (or self-sacrificing) love, and my heart broke while watching Moore punish himself for his “sinful urges,” practicing an unaccepting devotion to a Levitical higher power. He witnesses failed domestic love in his own home, but doesn’t fully grasp the delineation between abuse and love until several tumultuous, closeted young adult relationships. Finally, his upbringing in Camden, an underfunded and impoverished city in South Jersey, has given him a firsthand testimony of love for one’s hometown (and the INCREDIBLE maternal family inside it), but also of the great political exploitation the Black & Latinx city has experienced for his entire lifetime. For much of the memoir (and his life), he is misled by these detrimental forms of love, and harms people in the way he has seen before. In No Ashes, we are able to see him work through these inherited flaws, thanks to the advice of wiser friends, and also some deep introspection. In the same way that he forgives and asks more of others in the book, he does the same of himself, showing us his mistakes, but refusing to stay in them. In a way, he finds himself at a purer, New Testament theology—he has sinned by hating his more feminine brothers, himself, and those from his hometown, but in writing this book, in living and loving them whenever he now can, he has gone on to sin no more. Moore is someone who has learned to be fearless through his politics, and it’s amazing to watch his quest for fearless, liberatory love unfold over the course of this memoir. At a certain point near the end, he says “I’ve come to value the practice of critical self-reflection,” and I must agree—yes, sir!!! Yes you have!!! Please read this book to learn about a great urban community and family, but also a great amount of heartbreak. Please read this book to gain an example of how we all might use the trials and truths of our lives to affirm *all* those around us. Moore has done his work to learn how to love himself and his people, and you won’t end this book without feeling convicted to do the same.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Darnell Moore grew up in Camden, N.J Camden is a city that over the decades became one of the most neglected and poor American cities. Its residents are overwhelmingly African American. I never cease to be amazed at the unrelenting decline of some cities like Detroit. and Camden. What are the causes? What are the forces at work? Moore provides some history that provides some of the reasons and recommends a book for those readers who want to understand more. His own grandmother lost her home at s Darnell Moore grew up in Camden, N.J Camden is a city that over the decades became one of the most neglected and poor American cities. Its residents are overwhelmingly African American. I never cease to be amazed at the unrelenting decline of some cities like Detroit. and Camden. What are the causes? What are the forces at work? Moore provides some history that provides some of the reasons and recommends a book for those readers who want to understand more. His own grandmother lost her home at some point, a victim of the economic up and downs of the city. Later his grandparents provided a home that was a refuge for any family member who needed a place to live, eat or escape to. As an adolescent, Moore realize he was attracted to his own sex. But in his family, his city, his community and his church, being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transexual was not acceptable. Despite his efforts to hide his sexual orientation, other gay classmates told him over and over that he was gay. He continued to deny it, and dated girls. When he went away to college, despite same-sex relationships, he continued to hide. He got involved in the Campus Ministry, still denying his true self. Moore was well into his adulthood before he, at last, realized he had to love himself before he could truly love others, his Black Community, and especially other GLBT people. The book description mentions Moore's involvement in Black Lives Matter. This doesn't come up until the final chapter. However, my conclusion is that Moore couldn't truly advocate and believe that Black Lives Matter until he learned to love himself, and the LGBT community. As we see in the recent attack on Jussie Smollett, his identities as a Black man, and a gay man, created an intersectional identity, that made him much more vulnerable. It took Moore a long time to get there, but at the conclusion of his book, he is a man who loves himself, his family, his city of Camden, and the Black Community. Most important, he loves humanity.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    No Ashes in the Fire is both a memoir from a gay black male growing up both poor, traumatized and loved in Camden, and a social commentary on being black, gay, queer, hiding, and out. As a writer, Moore is honest, intense, and passionate. In the prologue he says, "Every word and every sentence that follows is an attempt to recover the many smiles and moments of joy hiding behind he walls trauma left." True to his words, Moore leaves the reader with the hope that our humanity, our ability to love No Ashes in the Fire is both a memoir from a gay black male growing up both poor, traumatized and loved in Camden, and a social commentary on being black, gay, queer, hiding, and out. As a writer, Moore is honest, intense, and passionate. In the prologue he says, "Every word and every sentence that follows is an attempt to recover the many smiles and moments of joy hiding behind he walls trauma left." True to his words, Moore leaves the reader with the hope that our humanity, our ability to love each other is the "salve, the source, and the water that quenches the fire."

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nev

    Darnell L. Moore’s memoir shares his personal story of growing up Black in America, facing racism, homophobia, violence, and unequal opportunities. Through his personal stories he also shares wider experiences of race, class, sexuality, and how they impact people and communities. I thought it was an interesting way to structure a memoir. When he was sharing his own experiences going to an underfunded school in the 80s he also highlighted facts about the wider issue, not only focusing on his own Darnell L. Moore’s memoir shares his personal story of growing up Black in America, facing racism, homophobia, violence, and unequal opportunities. Through his personal stories he also shares wider experiences of race, class, sexuality, and how they impact people and communities. I thought it was an interesting way to structure a memoir. When he was sharing his own experiences going to an underfunded school in the 80s he also highlighted facts about the wider issue, not only focusing on his own story. He does this multiple times throughout the book, highlighting the history of the moments he’s talking about and sharing stories from other individuals. The majority of this memoir is about Darnell’s experiences growing up, going to school, coming out, and his family life. Which makes sense considering the subtitle references “Coming of Age.” I was interested in learning more about the work he does as an activist, but that wasn’t really the focus of the book. This is a very powerful story about growing up and coming out as a Black man in the US.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    I read No Ashes in the Fire because of the Times review that praised its treatment of what it was like to grow up poor, black, and queer in Camden, New Jersey. It's also about how the author came to terms with his sexuality and his faith and became an activist. I regret to report, however, that while it is about all of those things, they are all conveyed in some of the most tortured prose I have ever encountered. Many nouns come with three or four adjectives. No verb is without an adverb. Clunky I read No Ashes in the Fire because of the Times review that praised its treatment of what it was like to grow up poor, black, and queer in Camden, New Jersey. It's also about how the author came to terms with his sexuality and his faith and became an activist. I regret to report, however, that while it is about all of those things, they are all conveyed in some of the most tortured prose I have ever encountered. Many nouns come with three or four adjectives. No verb is without an adverb. Clunky metaphors abound. Moore seems to be writing in a way that he believes will come across as profound, but it's mostly just painful to read: not painful because he's had a hard life, but painful because it's so badly written. Consider this gem about his incarcerated father: "I was unbothered by his lack of presence during my childhood. And I expected that letters from my dad addressed from strange places with a series of numbers placed slightly below his name would one day land in our mailbox. In the letter, we would learn what correctional institution he was in, his needs, and other family members or friends he happened to run into while there. The institutions supposedly designed to correct my father failed, almost expertly. He returned many times after the first." What is happening in this paragraph? Multiple words get used instead of more economical phrasing. And it's all written as if to convey some sort of wisdom, but so self-consciously that one ends up being irritated by how impressed with himself Moore seems to be with his own observations. Bottom line: Moore has accomplished a lot and I can see how an editor and an agent might have been attracted to publishing his story, but why on earth didn't they do some editing first?

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kimberley

    Thank you NetGalley for this advanced eGalley of No Ashes in the Fire by Darnell L. Moore. I always hesitate when I'm asked to rate a memoir because it's a hard thing to rate the way a person writes his/her/their truth. You simply cannot judge a story, or the way it's told, because who are you to do so? If anything, I give any and every one who lays themselves bare 5-stars because that is something that's hard to do--especially when you're a black, gay, man in America. No Ashes in the Fire is Moo Thank you NetGalley for this advanced eGalley of No Ashes in the Fire by Darnell L. Moore. I always hesitate when I'm asked to rate a memoir because it's a hard thing to rate the way a person writes his/her/their truth. You simply cannot judge a story, or the way it's told, because who are you to do so? If anything, I give any and every one who lays themselves bare 5-stars because that is something that's hard to do--especially when you're a black, gay, man in America. No Ashes in the Fire is Moore's account of how he has gradually escaped the patriarchy, the aura of black masculinity, and some of his own inner demons to become a champion and activist for those within the black community, and beyond. His ups and downs are painfully detailed, and it's clear that sometimes, even now, he has to remind himself the path he's own was meant to be. Was he always comfortable in his skin? Not always, but his journey from self-hatred to self love, and learning how to both give and accept the love he's been given needs to be heard--especially by the young, black, boys of today. It's also important to note the love Moore speaks of isn't relegated to only those black boys who've accepted themselves as gay, bi-, or otherwise, but to the black boys, in general, for whom self-love is a foreign concept. "No Ashes in the Fire" is one man's journey to hell and back. A man who has lived to tell about his experience in hopes that someone else might benefit. A solid, raw, and powerful read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Celia Buell

    Free in exchange for an honest review, courtesy of Goodreads Giveaways. Thanks to Public Affairs Television, Inc for listing. I guess I'd never stopped to consider what "free" meant in the context of this book's subtitle. I'm glad I didn't know much about the book going into it, though. No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America chronicles Darnell L. Moore's life as a black and queer child, teenager, and young adult growing up in the 80's, 90's, and 2000's. It was the LGBT part Free in exchange for an honest review, courtesy of Goodreads Giveaways. Thanks to Public Affairs Television, Inc for listing. I guess I'd never stopped to consider what "free" meant in the context of this book's subtitle. I'm glad I didn't know much about the book going into it, though. No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America chronicles Darnell L. Moore's life as a black and queer child, teenager, and young adult growing up in the 80's, 90's, and 2000's. It was the LGBT part that I didn't immediately understand from the subtitle, and Moore approaches this in very interesting ways. This memoir is comprised of eight chapters and an epilogue, and the first four or so chapters seem kind of disjointed, and they only really reference Moore's childhood as unconnected incidents. The book does start to pick up around the middle, chapters 4 or 5, when Moore illustrates the process of starting to question his sexuality and deciding who he wants to be, including the way he excels and then drops in school, as is natural for many students in the transitions from middle school to high school and high school to college. I found his relationship with religion especially interesting. In chapter 6, the writing seems forced, and hard to read, and it's not until we look at his changing relationships with the Christian faith in chapters 7, 8, and the epilogue that we see that this was intentional. Around that point in the story was when I was thinking I might not finish this, and I'm really glad for that reason that I stuck with it. Through poetic, if not rambling, language, and precise memories, we get a good insight into Moore's life. I do have to admit, however, that there were a lot of points in this novel where I felt my eyes glazing over and found it very hard to concentrate on this book. I won't say it needed more action, because it is a precise memoir, but it doesn't draw me in as much as I may have hoped. I don't know if I would like to see more writing from Moore, but it would be interesting if he were to zero in on some of the incidents in this collection and write individually about some of them. I'm still planning on keeping this around, though. I think it's a very important untold story and it's important that people read it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Traci at The Stacks

    Darnell Moore is such a generous and lush writer. His vulnerability is a gift to his reader. The start and end of this book are so strong. The middle couldn’t keep up. This book is a brilliant reminder at the need yo love all Black folks unconditionally. So powerful.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mark Hiser

    Darnell Moore, a gay black man, bravely--and lovingly--makes himself vulnerable so that we might all have a greater understanding of life at the margins, and of the struggles that arise when our institutions teach us to fear, hate, judge, and consider some persons more deserving than others. Moore also makes clear how persons at the edges have been taught they deserve to be there. His words, however, also reinforce the call to action for love, justice, and equality. I am a white man. I have been Darnell Moore, a gay black man, bravely--and lovingly--makes himself vulnerable so that we might all have a greater understanding of life at the margins, and of the struggles that arise when our institutions teach us to fear, hate, judge, and consider some persons more deserving than others. Moore also makes clear how persons at the edges have been taught they deserve to be there. His words, however, also reinforce the call to action for love, justice, and equality. I am a white man. I have been married to a black man since 2015 though we have been together for 21 years. Though I was raised by parents who taught me that all people are of worth and deserving of the fullness of life, through my 21 year relationship with a man I love, I have come to better understand the subtleties and complexities of white privilege. Moore's book helped me to even better understand that privilege as well as my husband's struggles. It also further strengthened my own efforts to live more lovingly and authentically. During 2018, I read several books that caused me to observe the world in a different way. I think, for instance, of History of Violence by Edouard Louis and The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. I would also add Darnell Moore’s memoir, No Ashes in the Fire, to that list. Moore, who was born in Camden, New Jersey in 1976, is an American writer and activist best known for being a leader of Black Lives Matter. Though he was born in one of the poorest, most violent, cities of the country, Moore was able to eventually earn his bachelor’s in Social and Behavioral Sciences from Seton Hall, a master’s in clinical counseling from Eastern University, and a masters in theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. His studies focus on the intersection of race, sexual orientation, gender, socio-economic status, and Christian theology. Upon Mayor Cory Booker’s appointment, Moore went on to serve as Chair of the Newark, New Jersey LGBT Concerns Advisory Commission. He has also served in academic positions at Yale Divinity School, Rutgers University, New York University, and the City College of New York. No Fire in the Ashes is the story of one man’s search for himself and freedom while living in the margins of society. Born into extreme poverty in a forgotten and invisible city Moore, an African-American, escaped being set on fire when three boys who thought he was gay poured gasoline over him when he was 14. He survived a home where a once kind father beat his wife and took drugs. He survived a heart attack when he was 19. He survived college though he came out of a broken educational system. Not only does Moore carry the burden placed on his back for being black in a country built around whiteness, he also carries the burden of being gay in a country built around heterosexism and being “queer” in a country based on patriarchy. This story, though full of sadness, horror, and violence, is one that reminds us that freedom to be ourselves and to live fully does not come easy. However, through the violence, depression, killing, and drugs, through the willful lack of help by politicians, through the racism, homophobia, and poverty, Moore found a way to become visible. Moore’s book reminds us that life on the margins, outside the privilege of whiteness, is difficult. Those on the margins are forgotten and feared. They are pushed to the edges so those in the middle can feel safe behind their “walls.” They are kept away so power and resources can be concentrated. To be seen, those on the margins must overcome internalized self-loathing, repression, and oppression, as well as the many other barriers placed around them to keep them at the edges. Moore’s book reminds us who may be more fortunate and privileged, that we have a moral--and even religious--obligation to struggle for freedom. Life in chains keeps us from our self and our potential and ultimately holds us all back. Walls built around the margins to keep others out and invisible are also walls that imprison the builders. Moore’s story of brutality, poverty, racism, homophobia, gender bias, and more is a story most of us behind the safety of the walls we built cannot—do not—see. This memoir should be required reading. It is difficult for me to imagine how any reader could walk away from it without feeling convicted and awakened. It is an easy book to read, but one of the most difficult, too. It is harsh and brutal, but also full of love and hope. Moore’s is a story of struggle for liberation, grace and beauty behind the walls blocking the view of life on the margins. Read this one.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Scott Hitchcock

    3.5*'s One man's story of not only dealing with bigotry from bring black but also from being gay which divides him from his own community. His family bonds in the end keeping him afloat as he transforms from hiding to becoming an advocate for injustice on many fronts.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Julia Keizer

    In reading No Ashes in the Fire I was immediately drawn in by the writing of Darnel Moore. His writing style was like smooth honey, slowly working its way into my soul. "hiding eyes that were windows into a world more fantastic that the world he moved through." It was like listening to smooth jazz the whole way through the novel. I would love to hear him speak, I feel his voice would be as soothing to the soul as his words are. The love for his family and his people is quickly shown in the first In reading No Ashes in the Fire I was immediately drawn in by the writing of Darnel Moore. His writing style was like smooth honey, slowly working its way into my soul. "hiding eyes that were windows into a world more fantastic that the world he moved through." It was like listening to smooth jazz the whole way through the novel. I would love to hear him speak, I feel his voice would be as soothing to the soul as his words are. The love for his family and his people is quickly shown in the first chapter. He truly wants to understand what had happened to his hometown and how he could help. Revealing his families history and the history of Camden that was so similar to what is happening now in the United States is heartbreaking. Moore overcomes violence at the hands of his father and peers, racism, near death due to heart failure, and mental health to graduate from several Universities with graduate degrees and is one of the organizers of Black Lives Matter Movements. His writing is poetic and contemplative and brings the lives of people living in the ghetto or the hood into the light. My husband was raised in the hood; and although he was a white male growing up in a Nova Scotia ghetto which cannot compare to an American ghetto, he has told me his stories of gunshot wounds from robberies, watching suicides, and the roughness with which he was raised. Reading Moore's portrayal of his life brought to me a clearer understanding of ghetto life and a better understanding of my husbands' childhood. This memoir tells the story of life in the ghetto from the 70's to present and how little has changed in regards to racism and sexual orientation. Moore narrates his male life from a young boy growing up wanting to be straight and not feeling safe about his sexual desires until he was a grown man. Describing secret rendezvous and sexual accounts to prevent his family from finding out his deepest secret. Delving into the darkest corners of queer life from the perspective of a queer black man is unique and Moore captivates from the first paragraph. This memoir is a powerful and moving novel that I would recommend to anyone wanting to get a sense of the injustice that has plagued the African American and LGBT communities for decades. I would like to thank NetGalley and Nation Books for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review

  18. 5 out of 5

    Aqura (engineersreadtoo)

    There are beautiful moments in this book. Many of them filled with the realization that black bodies matter, queer black bodies matter, queer black male bodies matter. It also matters that they can live openly and thrive in their truth while being grounded with genuine love. This is what I think Darnell did well with developing throughout this memoir. I did not love it but I did not hate it either. I appreciate him sharing his story, specifically his vulnerability in facing the very things that There are beautiful moments in this book. Many of them filled with the realization that black bodies matter, queer black bodies matter, queer black male bodies matter. It also matters that they can live openly and thrive in their truth while being grounded with genuine love. This is what I think Darnell did well with developing throughout this memoir. I did not love it but I did not hate it either. I appreciate him sharing his story, specifically his vulnerability in facing the very things that have haunted him in so many ways in the past. Selfishly, as a reader I often found myself yearning for more depth. There were things for me that were both introduced and left open and/or not expanded on enough.

  19. 4 out of 5

    SabirSultan

    I don’t know that I’m capable of providing an objective review of this book (frankly, I’m not sure a book review benefits from being impersonal when so much of reading is immediate and intimate). It felt too personal. I felt loved by it. Truly, I did. Ostensibly it is a memoir about growing up queer, black, and impoverished and finding a way to thrive within those contexts. The early chapters provide a context of statistics, facts, and history for his childhood in Camden, New Jersey. The ensuing I don’t know that I’m capable of providing an objective review of this book (frankly, I’m not sure a book review benefits from being impersonal when so much of reading is immediate and intimate). It felt too personal. I felt loved by it. Truly, I did. Ostensibly it is a memoir about growing up queer, black, and impoverished and finding a way to thrive within those contexts. The early chapters provide a context of statistics, facts, and history for his childhood in Camden, New Jersey. The ensuing chapters follow Moore’s life from elementary school through college into a life focused on supporting and loving the communities he is a part of. The book also details his internal struggles to come to love himself and then by extension those communities. It is the detailing of those struggles where something transcendent occurs. In his reckoning with his own internalized racism, homophobia, sexism, etc. Moore is constantly choosing to love, choosing to hope, choosing to believe in possibility and to create a space where black men, black women, black non-gender binary people and LGBTQ people of color can exist. His structuring of community is the most wonderfully queer act. It is relentlessly inclusive. It posits freedom as difference. Moreover, it continuously celebrates and loves blackness. I needed this book. There is paucity of contemporary memoirs by queer black people. In general, there is a paucity of contemporary queer black writing. Outside of poetry that is – poetry is on lock. I love this book back.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jenn

    Review to come

  21. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Judy

    A very open and honest account of the authors childhood. Absolutely stunning writing, terrifying tales of being bullied and abused, all done without a hint of bitterness or anger from the author. Overall a wonderfully uplifting and inspiring read despite the terrible experiences relayed. A read that I would recommend to most.

  22. 5 out of 5

    chantel nouseforaname

    Powerful. It’s this type of coming-of-age narratives that we need to amplify in the community. In the writing world. Darnell Moore took you deep into a home life so similar to many of those who grow up young, black and impoverished but who retain a sense of spirit and put forth this tenacity that can’t be broken or turned backwards. I am awestruck by how reflective he is. On so many levels. He really gave comprehensive thought about the negative effects that patriarchy has on society and how he Powerful. It’s this type of coming-of-age narratives that we need to amplify in the community. In the writing world. Darnell Moore took you deep into a home life so similar to many of those who grow up young, black and impoverished but who retain a sense of spirit and put forth this tenacity that can’t be broken or turned backwards. I am awestruck by how reflective he is. On so many levels. He really gave comprehensive thought about the negative effects that patriarchy has on society and how he has contributed to the patriarchal culture not only as a man but as a black man, recognizing the undue hardship and apologizing for the amount and constancy of the taking he has leveled at his black sisters and friends in the struggle. He turns a critical gaze towards the effects of religion in the black community to control and shape patriarchal rule over black women while raising up black men. I can honestly say that a huge part of being a feminist as a man, in my opinion, is acknowledging and recognizing where men can do better, pointing it out for your brothers and sisters and trying to do better yourself. This memoir was a 5 star read and just what I needed to bust me out of the reading slump I’ve been in. I visited New Jersey this past week and heard some folks speak of Camden and it’s duality. The poverty and neglect as well as the sense of community and opportunity for services to intervene there. It’s a world, as a Canadian, I was unfamiliar with but every city/province/state has their Camden and far too often it’s people are left to their own devices and marginalized so far that we never hear their stories. This story of becoming and being who you are as reflected through where you’re from is timely and absolutely necessary for the kids from these areas all over the country. It was a perfect read and even his acknowledgments and the way he wrote them, were profound and humbled me.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    TCNJ's required summer read for incoming freshman. Moore's memoir mostly zooms in on his childhood growing up in Camden, NJ and then his college years at Seton Hall, but it's a remarkable blending of personal narrative with the sociology of place. He allows us to see him, his family, and the city he loves through his eyes even as he provides a necessary critique of the larger environmental factors (ie. white privilege, economic inequity, political corruption, etc) that often mark Camden as "one o TCNJ's required summer read for incoming freshman. Moore's memoir mostly zooms in on his childhood growing up in Camden, NJ and then his college years at Seton Hall, but it's a remarkable blending of personal narrative with the sociology of place. He allows us to see him, his family, and the city he loves through his eyes even as he provides a necessary critique of the larger environmental factors (ie. white privilege, economic inequity, political corruption, etc) that often mark Camden as "one of the most dangerous cities in America." Moore's memoir also explores what it means to be black and poor and queer -- one reviewer of the book (Jewel Wicker/ARTSATL) called it "a love letter to black and queer communities." Moore's not easy on himself, the churches he worked in, kids who hurt him (literally and figuratively), or his abusive father, but he's also forgiving as he tries to work out how individuals and institutions can both oppress and uplift, how he can feel the privilege of patriarchy even as he's a target of racism and homophobia. It's a challenging, inspiring book and I'm glad TCNJ selected it. These are exactly the things we need to be talking about as a community.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth Wade

    I had no idea this book would be this queer, but I’m happy about it. There were a few moments, particularly in the first couple chapters, where I didn’t care for the writing, but it either got better or grew on me. I also liked that this book had a lot of connections to another book I recently read, Michael Duberman’s Hold Tight Gently. That was purely coincidence, but it was nice nonetheless. My life is a mess, hence the scatterbrained quality of this review, but I can confidently say I enjo I had no idea this book would be this queer, but I’m happy about it. There were a few moments, particularly in the first couple chapters, where I didn’t care for the writing, but it either got better or grew on me. I also liked that this book had a lot of connections to another book I recently read, Michael Duberman’s Hold Tight Gently. That was purely coincidence, but it was nice nonetheless. My life is a mess, hence the scatterbrained quality of this review, but I can confidently say I enjoyed this memoir. 4 out of 5

  25. 4 out of 5

    Conner

    This is a good book to learn about some of the issues affecting Black and queer communities, but I didn’t find it as effective as a memoir. Moore frequently shares commentary and research connecting his personal experiences with larger trends affecting Black and LGBTQ+ Americans. While this information is helpful to contextualize his individual story within broader themes, I feel at times I was only getting a glimpse into his life rather than the level of depth I usually expect from a memoir.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    I read books about people with different backgrounds, races, sexual orientations, etc. so that I can learn about a variety of experiences. Moore's story could not be more different than my own - he grew up impoverished in New Jersey as a black, gay youth. But his struggles to accept both himself and the circumstances he was born into are universal. I truly admire Moore's ability to fully examine his life, both his achievements and the mistakes he regrets. I did struggle a bit with the jumps in t I read books about people with different backgrounds, races, sexual orientations, etc. so that I can learn about a variety of experiences. Moore's story could not be more different than my own - he grew up impoverished in New Jersey as a black, gay youth. But his struggles to accept both himself and the circumstances he was born into are universal. I truly admire Moore's ability to fully examine his life, both his achievements and the mistakes he regrets. I did struggle a bit with the jumps in time and topic. I would have loved if the book was separated by theme (his dad's violence, the history of police violence in the US, his educational journey) instead of this progression, which felt a bit rambling and muddled at times. Overall, an inspirational and informative read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    4.5 stars I'll probably add my thoughts later.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    A powerful, heartfelt and courageous memoir. The author's beautiful writing truly resonates and his at times brutal honesty in recounting his struggles is nothing short of admirable.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Naomi

    A very fine read recommended for older youth and adults in reading groups, addressing issues of race, sexuality, and identity, that is, y'know, life and being.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Catie

    "Every danger presented another opportunity to quicken my speed when violence was imminent. Difference is often the calculus for such violence, but the unexplainable strength within us sometimes safeguards us from its grip. Dreams die if they are consigned to the imagination only. They are the seeds we must be able to plant in the outside world; at least, that is what I now know, having remembered the ways I manifested dreams as a youth." "Living, as a black youth without access to the collective "Every danger presented another opportunity to quicken my speed when violence was imminent. Difference is often the calculus for such violence, but the unexplainable strength within us sometimes safeguards us from its grip. Dreams die if they are consigned to the imagination only. They are the seeds we must be able to plant in the outside world; at least, that is what I now know, having remembered the ways I manifested dreams as a youth." "Living, as a black youth without access to the collective empathy and safety granted to white kids, is a weighty struggle." "The thirst for power leaves the spirit arid." "We are sometimes disillusioned when we discover the gods of our American fantasies bestow favors sparingly." "True love removes the walls, those designed by hands that are not our own, which separate black people from one another."

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