My first reaction when I picked-up Black Card by the Chris L. Terry is that it was the third book I've read in recent months blurbed by the terrifically killer writer Samantha Irby. The others being On Being Human by the Jen Pastiloff and Go Ahead In The Rain by the Hanif Abdurraqib. Which means what exactly? Maybe that Sam now imbues a book with a certain cultural resonance and cache? Yes, for sure. And should. That I read good books? Obviously. And that I'm friends with authors who have achieved cultural resonance and cache and write damn good books? Well, yes, humblebrag alert. I am friendly with two of these three authors, and if I ever get a shot at being friends with Hanif Abdurraqib, I will embrace it wholeheartedly. Did you hear that Hanif, wholeheartedly sir. All of which, it's true, seems maybe a just a little self-centered and self-promoting, and it is, of course, always. But it's not only that either. It's also a celebration and an acknowledgment that people move from here to there, that their stature can grow, that they can produce such good, contemporary, interesting work, that it's an honor to be friends with them, and in the case of Chris, even shared a bed with them. Because look, hotel rooms during AWP are not cheap, yo, especially when one has small children, as we both do/did. But this is one of the things that excites me so much about Black Card, along with the fact that its fresh, raw, funny and super fucking timely. Chris is an awesome dude who writes awesome things. His debut Zero Fade was everything a debut can, and should, be, a story we know, ostensibly a coming of age tale, told with new eyes, in this case from the POV of a person of color, and written for the readers of today, with its focus on race, though as more of a background subtext to the larger story, and homophobia, the bigger, bolder arc. It was a book that could not help being political by its very existence, while not intending to be so political at all. Black Card doubles-down on the politics, however, while still being something not political at all, an engaging, page-turning, at times stomach-wrenching story, told by a great storyteller whose pushing himself to thrown down, which is everything a second book should* be. Which is to say, Chris talks about race in America and the adjacent need one encounters to have to talk racists, both the overt ones and otherwise, and whether one wants to or otherwise, though it's much different as a person of color, clearly, and police relations, also, much, different, though also bringing what it means to be mixed-raced - and in this case questioning and questing for one's "Black Card" - into the conversation as well. A conversation not only current, but one that's going to dominate the cultural ethos, albeit kicking and screaming, well into any foreseeable future. So, what does this say about Chris? It says that he has a lot to say about the state of the world without being so on the nose as letting us know that he os talking about the state of the world. That what he's lived and lives is enough. And that he is, and will be, a wonderful storyteller who will only continue to grow. Now, am I biased? Of course I am. Am I proud and jealous in somewhat equal measure? Always. Am I right about all I've said here? Most definitely I am. But will this book change your life, please, you still have to ask that, I mean, haven't you read this far?
*I do want to note the excessive usage of "should" in this post, a word I generally eschew. I can't explain it at the moment, but I am feeling some kind of urgency about this book and this author and that may be explanation enough.