“No Ashes in the Fire” by Darnell L. Moore— Queer and Black in Camden

Moore, Darnell L. “No Ashes in the Fire”, Nation Books, 2018.

Queer and Black in Camden

Amos Lassen

Darnell Moore’s “No Ashes in the Fire” is both memoir and social commentary. What we gain here is a deep understanding of being black and gay. Moore not only claims this double identity, he both suffers and revels in it. The idea of blackness has crafted by generations of white supremacy and is paralyzing and narrow. Black Americans have struggled to free themselves of these limited expectations, to transcend being seen simply as other, as “the brutish thug on the corner, the sassy and strong black woman, the cheerfully selfless mammy, or the mindless entertainer.” There is an invisibility of black people that denies the complexity of who they really are as human beings and it has constantly threatened sense of self and undermined ability to realize full potential; it has allowed a justification for centuries of societal and institutional abuse and exploitation.

For LGBTQ black people, it has been worse. They have to deal with racism, disabling as it is for all black people, and their identities as queer and trans living in a patriarchal and dominantly heterosexual world is an extra burden, including one often imposed by their own communities; yet another assault on the psyche.

Thirty years after having been assaulted by three boys when he was fourteen, Moore is a leading Black Lives Matter activist, and an advocate for justice and liberation. In “No Ashes in the Fire”, he shares his journey with us from having been a bullied teenager to finding his calling in the world. He has transcended over many forces of repression and shows us that if we dream, we can create futures in which we can thrive. This is a story about “beauty and hope-and an honest reckoning with family, with place, and with what it means to be free.”

Moore has struggled against bullying, bigotry, and self-loathing and we see his vulnerability. He finds his way to LGBTQ activism and self-acceptance through faith and family. He has dared to call into question the truths we assume about ourselves and those among us.

Moore grew up as a queer black man in Camden, New Jersey in the 1980s. He was loved by his family and cast out by his peers as he his faith, his sexuality and his own self-loathing and self-acceptance. He writes analytically and he is aware and compassionate. He takes us in to his family and his life as if we have always been there. We see how he faced “anti-Black racism, neoliberalism, queer and trans antagonism, inequities in education, the ills of U.S. housing markets and so much more”.

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