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Black and White Paperback – June 12, 2017
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Good writing can make the controversial exciting and even appealing. Ben Burgess isn't a good writer. He’s a great one.Black and White takes two racially charged legal cases that would be problematic for any attorney and gives them to a team that consists of one black lawyer and a white one. They have very different backgrounds. They have very different lives, even though they work for the same firm. This entire novel is a study in the contrast between white lives in America and black lives in America. Ben Burgess writes about this difference, not by telling us but by showing us. Black and White is about as realistic as writing can get. It takes a master to get America just right in a story like this and Ben Burgess does a masterful job of dissecting life from various social, economic, and legal perspectives. Ray Simmons
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
This is urban fiction at its best and it’s a ride, a very fast and thrilling one. The first element of this novel that captivated me was the enormous conflict which involves racism, indicated through the novel by the great dialogues. Here is an invective that captures racism in one of the interesting conversations: “Shut up, you ugly Black monkey, before I tell Uncle Curtis not to give your bum ass family any food.” The reader will have a keen interest in the balance that comes through between character, plot, and setting. One has the impression they are reading a well-calculated and beautifully executed drama. The writing is great and it features exciting conversations that help to deepen plot and character. This is a story that succinctly displays the reality of racism in the US. Ben Burgess Jr. has a gift for plot and character and Black and White handles one of the controversial themes in today’s American debate; a really satisfying read. Divine Zape
Black and White is not just a crime story but a coming-of-age novel. The cases mirror modern events. Chapters revealing the in-depth histories of the characters added another dimension. -Danita Dyess
About the Author
Ben Burgess Jr is the author of the award-winning novels "Monster," "Wounded," “Love and Happiness,” “ Daddy’s Girl," and the new novel "Black and White." He is an active performer of spoken word poetry. Ben Burgess Jr uses his love of writing to inspire and influence youths to strive for what they believe in and to never give up on their dreams. His novels "Monster" and “Wounded” are currently used in schools on the lower east side of Manhattan. Ben Burgess has a BA degree in Business Management and an MA degree in Educational Leadership. He is the proud father of his daughter Jaelynn and is active in trying to improve urban neighborhoods and communities.
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While a work of fiction, the scenarios played out in 'Black & White' felt real.
The author did a great job of dissecting multiple viewpoints and putting them on display. Even minor characters were well-developed.
A bigoted white law firm lands two huge cases—a black rapper accused of a quadruple murder (including two cops), and a white NBA star accused of raping a black stripper. Dangling a partnership as bait, the firm assigns the rapper’s case to Ben Turner… who’s also black; and the ball player’s case to Bill O’Neil… also white.
Let the games begin.
Both young men are determined to win and claim the partnership.
Despite their obvious differences, these two men had more than enough in common to be good friends—especially with Ben’s white girlfriend, Becky, and Bill’s black girlfriend, Ebony.
But that wasn’t the case. Preconceived notions, personal biases, and LIFE, itself make Ben and Bill adversaries. Combined with the personal drama of each of their lives, both men were fighting uphill battles battling the perceptions which guided their lives.
The son of two judges, privileged Ben dealt with being “acting white”, “not black enough”, “and never good enough.” As a black woman, I completely understood Ben’s struggle, however, I felt he was too consumed with always trying to prove himself. Not saying Ben was wrong, by any means, but I believe he would have been happier if he spent more time living his life instead of constantly playing a role. Ben wanted to be seen as a good man and a good attorney without the element of race overshadowing everything he did. He would have saved himself a lot of grief and heartache by realizing nothing you do can or will change people. They have to want to change and invest in it.
Ben’s girlfriend, Becky, also worried about how people viewed her. Rebellious from a young age, Becky only sought to be taken seriously and respected by her white, wealthy family… which was never going to happen. Becky’s father, Steven Preston, considered himself nothing more than a pragmatist about race, but honestly, all he was missing was a hood and burning cross. I believe Becky loved Ben but allowed her father to overrule her too often because she still wanted his approval.
Gabby, Ben’s best friend, was also a piece of work. Once the object of Ben’s affection, all Gabby ever did was push him away, figuring he’d always be there. When Ben finally moves on with a relationship with Becky, Gabby becomes bitter, mean, and unkind. Her close friendship with Ben brings Gabby and Becky together often and Gabby doesn’t miss a chance to show or voice her disapproval of their interracial coupling.
I didn’t like Becky or Gabby. Not because of their personal views or opinions, but their personalities. Becky needed to get a spine and walk upright, and Gabby needed to shut up. She considered herself up front and “real” but Gabby was over-the-top rude and arrogant. I must give Becky props though for the scene where Gabby tells her black people cannot be racists and Becky stands her ground and schools her.
Bill’s life had been the opposite of Ben Turner’s. Abandoned by his father, he and his chronically ill mother found affordable housing… and eventually acceptance and family in Kew Gardens, a poor, black housing project. Bill overcame a lot as the only white kid in a black neighborhood, but I felt he was honest in his efforts and not simply just trying to get by. Bill’s friendship with Akeem and relationship with Akeem’s twin sister, Ebony, prove his character. He was genuine and not playing a role…at least not until he went to work at Wayne, Rothstein, and Lincoln.
After losing her brother to street violence, Ebony became a cop to help institute and implement change. She ended up mired in frustration and confusion when her own people saw her as part of the problem and hated her as much as they did white cops. Ebony also questioned her relationship with Bill—her first and only boyfriend—when she becomes attracted to a black male at work.
Add in Reggie and Johnny, the two men at the heart of each court case, and 'Black & White' is a hot pot of racism about to boil over.
The author does an excellent job at maintaining balance in the story. No one is all right or all wrong. People are the sum of their experiences… mostly. That being said, Bill was the only main character I liked. While not an innocent, I felt his motivations were the most real and the purest. I also liked Simone, Ben’s cousin raised by his parents. Her dysfunctional background and issues with abandonment led her to look for love… and acceptance in all the wrong places. I understood the other characters and their motivations… I just didn’t like them.
'Black & White' is well-written and developed. The multiple viewpoints are not distracting but served to pull the reader further into the story. Grammatical and editing errors are minor and do not take the reader out of the story.
The quote from 'To Kill a Mockingbird' which opens the story perfectly sums up the obstacles. A work of fiction, 'Black & White' is still an accurate commentary on the conversations about race NOT being had today. Not because we’re afraid of admitting our fears and prejudices about other races, but we’re afraid to accept certain truths about ourselves.
This is a must-read and I highly recommend it.
Black and White forced me to look within to recognize biases that I may harbor and allowed me to begin to change my way of thinking. Growth indeed.
EyeCU Reading Approved