Back in October of 2008 I blogged (is that a word?) about Josh Alan Friedman’s incredible book Tell The Truth Until They Bleed (Coming Clean In The Dirty Business of Blues and Rock’n’Roll) (Backbeat Books, 2008), which if you haven’t read, give yourself detention for a month. Anyway, I mentioned that I’d read Friedman’s autobiographical novel Black Cracker, which had been passed along by a mutual friend as a computer file and which had not yet found publisher. Well, the brave souls at Wyatt Doyle Books have finally published Black Cracker, and I take it as my responsibility to hip you to its charms as I just don’t think the N.Y. Times Sunday Book Review is going to feature it anytime soon.
Friedman’s memoir takes us back to Long Island, New York, 1962 where he and his brother (cartoonist Drew Friedman) are the only two white students left at South School, in Glen Cove, L.I., and here we find a cultural tell all that will leave you howling. There’s an unforgettable cast of misanthropic tykes led by a kid called Bobo, who lives with his family in a shack on back road. Despite the family attempt at lynching young Josh, Bobo and Josh soon bond, and for the next few years Friedman experiences a cultural metamorphosis where once he leaves the confines of his suburban home, he becomes the black cracker of the title. Kind of pre-pubescent, anti-Johnny Otis if that makes any sense.
In these peculiar times when “political correctness” fights it out with Ann Coulter, while the rest of us keep our heads down, try and pretend that none of it matters, and avoid the tough questions (Does the president’s wife straighten her hair? Why are the Little Rascals banned from TV? Why does all hip hop sound like “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall”? Is Patti Smith really a “Rock’n’Roll Nigger”?), I simply can not recommend this book highly enough. It may or may not enlighten you about the dual nature of race relations in this country, but it will sure as hell make you laugh, shake your head, and maybe even think.