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Dark: A Novel Paperback – June 12, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 1st edition (June 12, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767907078
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767907071
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,316,022 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a new twist on the growing genre of "thug noir," Jasper tells the poignant story of 19-year-old Thai Williams, whose life is turned upside down when he kills a rival for his girl's affections after walking in on the two in bed together. A resident of the infamous Shaw neighborhood in Washington, D.C., Thai is considered the intellectual in a foursome of young black men. The other three are Enrique, the blessed one; Ray Ray, the loco; and Snowflake, the hoodlum. Leaving behind his government job and plans for college, Thai flees to Charlotte, N.C., to hide out in an apartment provided by one of his friends. In terse, fluid prose, Jasper paints effortless, three-dimensional portraits of all of the key players. Set against the backdrop of the young African-American communities in both D.C. and Charlotte, the book addresses critical issues without preaching. What sets this novel apart are the high quality of the writing and the carefully developed themes of responsibility and redemption; each person Thai meets during his flight from the law brings him closer to emotional maturity. Jasper's engrossing debut evades stereotype, zeroing in with style and substance on what it takes to not only survive but to thrive as a young black man in the killing streets of the inner city.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Thai Williams is a 19-year-old graduate of the DC public schools, and an entry-level government employee. He has vague aspirations to attend the University of the District of Columbia, but he never makes any concrete moves toward that goal. He divides his time among his job; his wild, streetwise friends; and his girlfriend, Sierra. His world crumbles when he finds her making love to another young man named Nick. He wants to beat up the interloper in a public place as revenge, but his friends put a loaded gun in his hand, and he ends up killing his rival instead. Thai flees to Charlotte, NC, to hide out with E, a friend who has recently relocated there. While he waits for interest in Nick's murder to subside, E introduces him to a whole new lifestyle that is more affluent, much less violent, and full of opportunities to advance socially and economically. The author of this page-turner is a 25-year-old native of Washington, DC, and he peppers the dialogue with contemporary slang and speech patterns. The story of this young black man makes an interesting contrast to Richard Wright's Native Son (HarperCollins, 1998).

Joyce Fay Fletcher, Rippon Middle School, Prince William County, VA

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

The book was a easy read but it kept me very interested.
In a fit of rage Thai finds himself between a rock and a hard place and makes a decision that will change his life forever.
Nancy Flowers Wilson
He's done an excellent job at character development and plot execution.
Kesha Boyce Williams

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Siegel on July 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
"Dark" offers readers a glimpse into the life of a young, black man trying to figure out his identity and establish his values. Kenji Jasper does an excellent job of conveying the futility of much of the strife that takes place in the less than wealthy areas of Washington, D.C. "Dark" explains a lifestyle that many people, especially W.A.S.P.s like myself, make judgment upon without even partially recognizing all of the involved complexities. The size of the load that is on the protagonist's mind is more than most people would have to shoulder over the course of their entire life, and this gentleman is barely of legal driving age. Ultimately, this novel, though it is fiction, does an excellent job of letting a reader know what life is like in the core of many of America's historic cities. It makes a person consider that many people who partake in activities that society would describe as "ugly" are not necessarily the stereotypical, thoughtless thug. This book rings a note similar to "The White Boy Shuffle". While "Dark" book will beg to be read in one quick sitting (it is that captivating), take the time to also appreciate the literary talent and unique style that Kenji Jasper displays.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Stephen on July 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
Kenji Jasper's "Dark" is meant to be a story of redemption. Opening in Washington, DC, its plot centers around a black man named Thai who kills another man in the heat of the moment. Shocked by what he's done and terrified of the consequences, he flees to North Carolina, where his best friend takes him in. During his week in Charlotte, Thai meets various men and women who help him realize that by not facing what he has done, he is slowly killing himself. Ultimately, Thai returns home to take responsibility for his actions.
Jasper is clearly a talented writer. His protagonist is wonderfully developed, and most of the other major characters are also well-done.
The author's writing is crisp and precise: once or twice it seemed like poetry. The style, however, seemed far too elementary for the story being told. This book is written on a fifth-grade reading level. While that makes for a fast read, it also occasionally detracts from the story's emotional intensity.
Overall, this novel is not perfect, but it is a good, fast read. And it will make you think.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
This debut novel is a tight story about Thai, a 19-year-old black man with the mind and ability to make something positive of himself, but who is wary of anyone and anything beyond his neighborhood (Shaw, in Washington, D.C.). One evening he kills another young black man in the heat of the moment (they are fighting and he is handed a gun) in retaliation for sleeping with his girlfriend. This step toward thug life shocks him out of his home turf, and takes off for Charlotte, NC to hide out and see his best friend. On the surface this sounds like another basic urban crime story, but it�s really the entry point for the author to explore how young black men and women get stuck in the ruts of dead-end jobs and living situations, unaware of the possibilities offered by the world.
Contrary to what others have written, the book is not about redemption. Jasper makes it clear that there is no path for redemption after murder�it�s an evil one has to live with for the rest of one�s life. The only positive path is to change one�s life, and the book�s real story is about Thai�s struggle to figure out whether his identity is inexorably bound to the people and places he knows, or whether his identity is something he can redefine for himself. During his week in Charlotte, he is shown how life can be better, both by his best friend (who has a j-o-b, a fine ride, and a fine woman), and others he meets who try and convince him that leaving the old neighborhood behind isn�t the end of the world. We taken deep into Thai�s head and shown all his confusion and the conditioning that he struggles with. And in that sense, it�s a cautionary story.
The writing is simple and solid, Jasper�s dialogue flows with a natural realistic rhythm, whether it be banter between friends, or serious father-son talks.
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By "lonoco" on October 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
Dark by first-time novelist, Kenji Jasper, is a well written, thought-provoking and disturbing read. Jasper paints a vivid and descriptive picture of life in the Shaw District of Washington, DC. Jasper offers a glimpse into the life of a young AA male who's trying to discover his place and role in life. 19-year old, Thai Williams, is hanging out on the streets of DC with his knucklehead boys when he finds himself in a bad situation. Thai is the intellectual member of the four-some, so when he catches his girlfriend with another man, and decides to shoot him, Thai surprises himself. One minute he was college-bound and the next minute he's running from the law. While he's on the lem he decides to head down to Charlotte, NC to hang out with his buddy, Enrique, who's gone on to make a better life for himself. The week that Thai spends in Charlotte is one of introspection and trying to come to terms with his latest actions.
Kenji Jasper has written an intriguing and enlightening novel. My only disappointment was all of the loose ends at the end of the story. I didn't feel like any of the issues were really resolved; maybe a sequel is in the works. Nevertheless, Dark is a small book with a powerful message and one that I highly recommend for teenagers and young adults.
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