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Finlater [Kindle Edition]

Shawn Stewart Ruff
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.50
Kindle Price: $5.99
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  • Length: 292 pages
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Book Description

In this Lambda Literary Award-winning debut, the course of growing up in just-this-side-of-segregation 1970s Cincinnati, Ohio, seems predictable if uninspiring for Cliffy Douglas. That is, until the deadbeat father of this gifted 13 year-old black kid from the Findlater Gardens Projects appears out of nowhere. The real fun and trouble begin when Noah, a Jewish boy he meets in junior high school, takes him on a joyride to lust and love.

Editorial Reviews


[This] debut is a winner, thanks to the spare, deeply affecting writing of Ruff, a New York City short-story writer who has penned a unique and arresting novel about two boys in love. --Beth Greenfield, Time Out New York

[Told is the] finely tuned story of Cliffy, a 13-year-old Black boy from the housing projects who discovers his burgeoning homosexuality with Noah, a middle-class Jewish classmate from the right side of [the] tracks. --Emily Drabinski, OUT Magazine

From the Author

Though I'm first and foremost a novelist, history frequently turns up in my fiction. In this novel particularly, since it attempts to capture the period of my growing up in roiling 1970s Cincinnati, Ohio.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1083 KB
  • Print Length: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Quote Editions, Inc.; First edition (July 19, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0027ISAKK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #951,240 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A deeply humane and moving work July 29, 2008
Full disclosure: I am listed in the acknowledgement of FINLATER as an early reader of the book. Second disclosure: I'm not a professional writer or reviewer, just a reader with some scattered background in history, LGBTQ studies, African American studies, librarianship, and education.

The novel presents real people in a real place: people who grow, a place that is also in the throes of change. As with Ruff's short stories I've read, there were characters whom I wanted to hate, but he doesn't let the reader make those easy decisions. A famous author once said that the first rule of writing was never to humiliate your characters - a recommendation that Hollywood regularly ignores. But Ruff has the humane instinct to draw each character with honest sensitivity and understanding.

Two comparisons could be useful - one is with Peter Cameron's acclaimed SOMEDAY THIS PAIN WILL BE USEFUL TO YOU. Superficially, one can say that Cameron's protagonist, James, is an 18-year-old, rich, white, Ivy League bound sensitive and smart New York City cynic; and Ruff's Cliffy is a 13-year-old low-income sensitive and smart black kid from Cincinnati. But there's something else that's different. In FINLATER, the stakes seem higher, but not falsely inflated - for starters, there's actually sex and genuine intimate feelings, desires and desperation, in Ruff's work. The family dysfunctions aren't just fodder for rolling one's eyes in embarrassment, but dangerous and real in their impact. In FINLATER, there are both well-off and poor, and the genuine desire of one to taste the other. On the other hand, both Cameron and Ruff share a charming restraint, letting their stories unfold and their characters emerge naturally.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Contribution November 20, 2010
I read the first two pages of Finlater before I decided to purchase the book. I was hooked instantly by the unique voice Shawn gave our young protagonist, Cliffy. Writing about youths in situations our narrator went through can be a delicate balance act, but I think the author did an exceptional job at keeping Cliffy a kid, even though he was smarter and more soul-wise than most boys twice his age. I'd have to agree with a reviewer who posted here before me, saying there was no one in Finlater I could truly dislike. Even the father, deadbeat, selfish prick that he was had redeeming qualities. For every mean-spirited action performed by one of the characters Shawn was quick to follow up with an example of just how human, and as such, liable to sin as the next person his characters were. Down to Frau Crites--the old German woman confined to her apartment by illness--the character's were multi-layered, believable, and heartrendingly broken in their own way. And yet they were strong too; in turns wise behind their years, and then rendered foolish by their desires. I'd warn readers of only one thing before picking up this book: If you are a fan of Happily-Ever-Afters and epilogues, you will not be satisfied with the ending of this book. Only truth lies here, and sometimes its pretty bleak and uncertain.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finlater January 16, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In 292 pages, Ruff creates a world which is at once familiar and foreign. A world in which the distinctions between "good" and "bad" are blurred and little is certain. Ruff's writing is refreshingly real. Everything from the setting to the language to the emotions felt by characters are believable.

Ruff tackles the important, yet difficult, issue of xenophobia in a way that is direct and at times shocking. Characters from all backgrounds are caught making stereotypical assumptions and using offensive expressions in reference to other characters or situations. For example, when Cliffy asks the school librarian about Jews, she says: "Just like I never hated your people. As long as you weren't dirty and foul-mouthed."

Many readers will be offended by one or more of the comments made in the text. This technique allows the reader to experience, through the characters, being simultaneously victim and perpetrator of xenophobia. This is a major innovation of Ruff's writing.

Finlater is best-suited for mature readers. The book is filled with sexually-explicit references which do not detract from the theme, but would not be appropriate for younger readers.

Stylistically, Finlater deserves accolade. The book is beautifully published on high quality paper with a relatively large and easily read font. The book is divided into short, easily-manageable chapters, which are perfect for busy readers. In my experience, though, once you begin reading Finlater it will not be easily put down.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN NOVEL September 23, 2009
No doubt Shawn Stewart Ruff has had lots of practice in his short story writing at making every word count, because in his first effort at writing a novel, FINLATER, there doesn't seem to be one word too many or one word too few throughout the piece. In fact, he seems to already be a master at saying exactly what he wants to say with a minimum of the words needed to say it. And each time, he hits just the right note to make this reader know exactly what he means. It is one of those books that if you're like me, you'll hate to put down when you finish it. You'll want more just like I do; I can hardly wait for his second novel.

I place this book right up there in my estimation of the greatest novels written with gay coming of age characters. It has a scene in it that is every bit as good as the scene in James Baldwin's GIOVANNI'S ROOM where the narrator begins the scene by saying, "I have not thought of that boy-Joey-for many years; but I see him quite clearly tonight." That scene ends with this statement, "It seemed, then, that a lifetime would not be long enough for me to act with Joey the act of love." In between those two sentences is some of the most beautiful language I've ever read and that scene has stayed with me since I first read it. I've compared other similar books looking for a scene that favorably compares to the writing I found there and I discovered this one in FINLATER. (Ruff also writes in first person narration.) The scene begins like this, "We showered together, sucking each other in the spray. It was fun and crazy and so real. Realer than anything I had ever done before." The scene ends like this, "I felt more than myself, greater than myself. I was all that I could ever be in that moment. I was in love.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Frank Coming of Age Story
Cliffy is a thirteen year old African American boy growing up in a low income housing project called Finlater, or Findlater, outside of Cincinnati. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Michael Holland
4.0 out of 5 stars Must Read
You will fall in love with Cliffy. First you will think that he is too young to understand any of the life experience he's going through. Read more
Published 8 months ago by lamar
5.0 out of 5 stars Coming of Age at its best!
You can't help but fall in love with Cliffy. He is going through what we all went through (in our own way) at his age. Read more
Published on June 23, 2012 by J. Reich
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic
To define this book in one word: authentic.

The main character, Cliffy, narrates a life so real and gritty for a thirteen year old, it just breaks my heart. Read more
Published on May 10, 2012 by Fangtasia
5.0 out of 5 stars Born To Write
This is beyond all doubt one of the best books I have ever read and I have read thousands.

I will be reading this authors other works and look forward to reading future... Read more
Published on March 10, 2012 by Book A. Holic
5.0 out of 5 stars LOVED IT!
With respect, I won't make this a long review as so many others have done (not that it doesn't deserve it, but I can't be the only one that fuzzes out and skips the big ones). Read more
Published on January 11, 2012 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Whose life is this?
Having grown up in a trashy little all-white town in Oklahoma, I find it amazing that the author has created an urban Black adolescence that feels like my own life. Read more
Published on January 3, 2009 by QTeacher
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing read
Ruff has written something remarkable that manages to transcend setting, sexuality, or race.

Believe the hype: this may just be the best novel of the year.
Published on September 6, 2008 by Jonathyn Pankratz
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkably Sensitive First Novel
Shawn Stewart Ruff may be a name known to only a few avid readers of short stories, but with the publication of FINLATER this gifted writer is bound to be recognized as a very... Read more
Published on July 28, 2008 by Grady Harp
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More About the Author

I'm from Cincinnati, Ohio, but call New York City home. Besides short stories and novellas, I can claim a pair of novels: Toss and Whirl and Pass (2010); Finlater (2008), winner of a Lambda Literary Award for Debut Fiction. I'm also the editor of the landmark anthology Go the Way Your Blood Beats (1996). More to come.


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