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Set on Chicago's South Side, this is the story of Tommie Simms, a college-educated black man with a middle-class job in the insurance industry and a wife and young child. Laid off after 9/11, Tommie turns to his cousin, Remi, a dealer, to make ends meet. He is quickly drawn into the Chicago underworld, selling drugs to pay the bills and getting dangerously entangled with both gang members and a corrupt police officer. Ojikutu's harsh and often violent depiction of the street life, where everyone has developed his or her own hustle in order to get by, is riveting. If the book has a problem, it's with the portrayal of Tommie. The reader never really understands what's behind self-described "square" Tommie's rapid fall from middle-class provider to gangsta wannabe and is left to wonder whether he is ultimately driven more by necessity or a destructive streak in his character. Still, this doesn't diminish the power or raw immediacy of the novel. Recommended for larger public libraries.-Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Ojikutu's award-winning debut, 47th Street Black 0 (2003), set in African American Chicago during the 1960s, portrays a promising high-school athlete turned gangster. In his second psychologically intense novel of the cruel paradoxes of life in a poor black Chicago neighborhood, Ojikutu hones his gifts for taut drama, bitter irony, and the rapid-fire trading of insults that passes for conversation among men struggling to survive in a world dead-set against them. Tommie, married with a baby daughter, has finally broken free from the poverty that grips his South Side neighborhood. Then he loses his job with a downtown insurance firm in the wake of 9/11. Soon he's as desperate as the guys who mock him for being a college grad and turns to selling weed for his cousin Remi only to run afoul of a rogue cop and rival dealers. Ojikutu writes with fierce precision and strategic nuance, shaping this timeless tale of a good man trapped in hell into a blazing indictment of the multiplying injustices and hunkered-down hopelessness of this particular juncture of terror and greed. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2006 Booklist