IN THE NEW MEMOIR When They Tell You to Be Good, author Prince Shakur explores a slice of America that’s seldom visited: first-generation queer Caribbean immigrants growing up in the Midwest. He invites us to bear witness as he negotiates the often treacherous borders of race, sexuality, and Jamaican culture. Much of the book revolves around his journey to uncover the truth about his father’s death and to reimagine what his life might have been like had he received the parenting that he needed. There’s an adolescent angst and young adult pathos in the memoir to which we can all relate. Shakur reminds us that there is no guidebook for young, queer Black boys and men.
In this memoir, Shakur searches for emotional and political meaning in a country that can no longer hide from its racist past.
Cary Alan Johnson, a writer, activist, and Africanist, is the author of the novel Desire Lines (Querelle Press, 2022).