Passage is the story of a young man’s journey. Warrior, the protagonist, is surrounded by deep family love and a sustaining connection to his history—connections that arm him as he confronts both spiritual and human forces that seek his destruction. It is, in part, an allegory, and a poetic narrative that allows you to experience the world through Warrior’s eyes as he learns to navigate streets filled with danger and inequality; he must confront the world he sees, and the anger it produces.
The novel is steeped in Black American culture and spirituality, urban realities, and many of the societal issues of our time—race and inequality, education and policing, violence and masculinity, and also the desire to find a connection and a sense of belonging in these deeply troubling times.
The novel speaks to the many conditions faced by the young people with whom I work. In addition to being a writer, I am a social entrepreneur and I co-founded and now lead The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, a comprehensive youth development and social justice organization that provides rites of passage programming, arts-based after-school care, counseling, summer camps, job training, college preparation, employment opportunities, community organizing training, legal representation, and international study programs to Africa and Latin America. I see my young people in Warrior and him in them.
Passage tells, at once, a deeply personal and yet also a universal story—the path to survival while claiming and understanding one’s true identity. Warrior’s thoughts shift from clarity to confusion and from love to anger. He represents legions of young people who struggle to name themselves, confront their histories, dreams, and nightmares, and not succumb to despair.
All great literature creates universal meaning through the depth of its particularity, and identification across culture, class, and time. In J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield, a young male protagonist, takes us on his journey and we see the world through his eyes; in Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts the story of a girl envelopes us and her life inspires and expands all of our perspectives. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has said, “Literature is a universal language because it is specific.”
I hope Passage raises many of the central questions you face as young people, no matter your heritage, culture, or home. How do I define myself in this world? How can I be clear about the forces I must battle? How do I find the pathways to an authentic self?
Harlem, New York