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Perfect Peace: A Novel Hardcover – March 16, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Black (The Sacred Place) explores the fateful decision of Emma Jean Peace to raise her seventh son, Perfect, as the daughter she has always wanted. Her plan, nutty as it is, works out until Perfect is eight years old and his blind older brother, Bartimaeus, makes an innocent discovery about his sister's body. Soon after, Perfect's friends begin talk of womanhood, prompting Emma Jean to reveal to Perfect the truth. So begins an education for Perfect—rechristened Paul—on manhood while his small Arkansas town casts an unforgiving eye on its newest curiosity. While the rural South backdrop is overly familiar and the dialogue is painfully hoary (What chu talkin' 'bout, Emma Jean?), Black manages a nuanced exploration of sexual identity and social structures without elevating his characters to angels or martyrs. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Daniel Black understands the racial psychology and culture of the South so well that he can show, not tell, and his characters' actions always ring true. This novel is a powerful exploration of a small group of individuals who hold each other in high regard. The love among members of this family is severely challenged, but the challenge is triumphantly met. Each child grows to manhood and achieves success according to his gifts. Through their lives we experience disappointment and sorrow, but also fulfillment and joy. Perfect Peace is an intense and satisfying read.” ―Greg Iles, New York Times bestselling author of The Devil's Punchbowl

“Daniel Black writes of growing up in a small town with humor, grace and forgiveness.” ―Adriana Trigiani, New York Times bestselling author of Very Valentine and the Big Stone Gap Series

Craft is not the word for this joyfully inscribed novel. The proper word is art. The book is a brave and complicated story perfectly told. Mr. Black offers a cultural gift to be welcomed.” ―Houston A. Baker, Jr., author of American Book Award winning Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals have abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era

Perfect Peace is a morality tale of the consequences of letting our selfish needs trap the ones we love into roles they weren't born to play. The characters here are as flawed, their sins numerous, as any living human being held under the lens, but the author brings a compassion and understanding to their plights.” ―Mat Johnson, award-winning author of Incognegro, Drop, and Hunting in Harlem

“Daniel Black has pried open the isolated lives of rural southerners, allowing us to peek inside. To understand the complexities of the southern experience, read Perfect Peace.” ―Dr. Karyn Lacy, professor of Sociology, University of Michigan, author of Blue Chip Black: Race, Class, and Status in the New Black Middle Class

“Mr. Black's novel nudges our sense of awareness and accountability. His narrative eloquently poses difficult questions with disarming kindness: ‘Do you know who you are? Do you know what you do? Do you know that there is never an excuse?' The relevance of this work with regard to all we are and all we do far exceeds his adroitly simple telling of the tale.” ―Keith Hamilton Cobb, actor

“Part cautionary tale, part folk tale, part fable, Daniel Black's Perfect Peace is a complete triumph. It bursts with emotions as intense as opera. Perfect Peace will bring you to tears and laughter. You will recognize characters from your own life, and perhaps even recognize yourself. In Emma Jean Peace, a mid-20th-Century rural Southern black woman who wants a daughter so desperately that she raises her infant son as a girl, Dr. Black has created a character as complex, equivocal and unforgettable as Scarlett O'Hara.” ―Larry Duplechan, author of Blackbird, Captain Swing, and the Lambda Literary Award-winning Got 'Til It's Gone


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1 edition (March 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312582676
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312582678
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (749 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Reginald D. Bailey Jr. on March 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am absolutely amazed right now. So much took place in the book. Emma Jean's bout of desperation, Perfect/Paul's struggle for freedom, Mister's secret love affair, Henrietta's revenge, Authorly's misguided notions of manhood, Woody's understanding of God, Blind Bartimaeus' intuitive sight, King Solomon's diligence in education, Gus and the Jordan, and last but not least, Sugar Baby, the seemingly drunken fool who knew everything from the beginning to the end. Daniel Black has somehow written about four or five novels and weaved them all together to give the World "Perfect Peace". Every character has a story, and every story lends itself to next. I laughed, I cried, and I had to walk away from the book a few times because of it's poignant intensity. I am officially a fan, and I cannot wait to read his pervious works, and hopefully many more to come.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers on April 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
When Emma Jean was a child, she was abused mentally and physically by her mean-spirited mother. She couldn't understand why her mother went to such great lengths to hate her but shamelessly showered her two older sisters with the love and the attention she craved.

Emma Jean marries Gustavus "Gus" Peace and from their union six sons are born. Pregnant with number seven, Emma Jean feels deep in her heart she will be blessed with a girl; a daughter she will love and cherish, unlike the way she was treated as a child. As fate will have it, she gives birth to a son; a beautiful son she will easily disguise as a girl and name Perfect. For eight years, sweet, adorable Perfect was the apple of her brothers' eyes and her parents' pride and joy. However, Emma Jean and Perfect's world is shattered when Perfect's true identity is discovered. Perfect's name is changed to Paul and he is forced to start living his life as a boy.

PERFECT PEACE grabs the reader in a tight hold and doesn't release them until the last page. Black's graphic writing allowed my mental images of the time and place in Swamp Creek, Arkansas flow through my mind with ease. The colorful, flawed characters and intricate story line caused my emotions to soar to different heights in various sections of the story; laughter, anger, happiness, and tears. PERFECT PEACE is a spectacular, soul-stirring literary gem!!!

Reviewed by Sharon Lewis
of The RAWSISTAZ(tm) Reviewers
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By K. on May 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading "Perfect Peace" by Daniel Black and was compelled to leave a review. I picked up this book on a whim, not knowing anything about the content or the author - just by reading the dust jacket and deciding to take a chance. I am SO glad that I did - this is one of the most moving stories I have ever read in my entire life (and I read constantly). The characters in this book are so authentic, and their stories are so dramatic; the reader is instantly and fully engaged in their lives. I experienced laughter, indignation, disgust, fear, pity, empathy and sorrow within these 341 pages. Rarely has my heart opened up in such a way for the main character of a fiction work. Compassion for Perfect/Paul moved me to tears while outrage for many of the other character's actions left me infuriated. Some of the events that took place in this story were downright despicable. Yet, despite how I felt about ANY of the characters or the things that they did, there is a common thread evident throughout: we are all human, thus we are all flawed. Take heed though, because Dr Black clearly demonstrates that the most grievous of all human transgressions is believing yourself to be better than someone else.

Overall this is a book about love, true beauty, the ties that bind, and perseverance of the human spirit. It may be a work of fiction, but the emotions you will experience as you read this novel are genuine indeed.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By R. L. Edwards on March 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
PERFECT PEACE is a masterfully crafted novel whose cadence explores forgiveness, parenting, and growing up queer in the south. More than a novel, PERFECT PEACE is a message from some other realm, and it explicates the ways in which abused African Americans often transfer their personal pain and hurt to some other undeserving soul. Through PERFECT PEACE, Black carves a space for himself in this nation's long tradition of great literary masters. When you read it you will cry, you will sing, and you, too, will transform with the novel's characters. The novel's characters were so ingeniously conceived that one can easily find themselves and their personal experience in the novel's storyline. All things considered, PERFECT PEACE poses a number of questions which cause readers to closely examine the ways in which gender is not biologically determined but rather socially constructed.

When Emma Jean Peace decides to raise her seventh son as a girl, she sets in motion a series of events that she hopes will contribute unto her liberation. Sadly, her freedom results in the bondage of her daughter, Perfect. Though her sins are numerous, one sympathizes with Emma Jean while at the same time praying for Perfect's successful transition into manhood. Though the novel's issues are complex, Black presents these issues in a simplistic kind of way while simultaneously offering the avid reader a literary challenge. The book is a quick read, yet I left the experience transformed!
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