for Strivers Row by Kevin Baker
Summer, 1943. Harlem is a never-ending carnival. Soldiers and sailors, hustlers and glamour girls fill its streets, looking for excitement. Every night, dance halls like the Savoy Ballroom are filled with frenzied jitterbuggers, and the best jazz musicians in the world face off in rent parties and clubs such as Small's Paradise.
Yet underneath the glitter, Harlem's black residents remain second-class citizens, shut out of most jobs, charged double the rents of white New Yorkers, and alternately ignored and harassed by the police. In military training camps throughout the South, their enlisted sons are beaten, jailed, even murdered. Harlem is a tinderbox, waiting for a match.
Along these restless streets, two very different young men cross paths. Their chance encounter will change both their lives and presages the coming battle for civil rights. Malcolm Little is a street hustler, a numbers runner and pot dealer; a naive, cocky, troubled teenager fresh off the train, dazzled by everything around him -- and not yet the iconic civil rights leader, Malcolm X, that he will become. The Reverend Jonah Dove is the minister of one of Harlem's greatest churches and a resident of Strivers Row, one of the community's most elite neighborhoods.
Their lives intersect when Malcolm rescues Jonah and his wife from a group of drunken white soldiers. For Jonah, it is a crowning indignity that brings on a crisis of faith. Though still ashamed of his attempt to "pass" as white during college, he has begun to do so again, on secret trips away from Harlem.
Malcolm is haunted by his own past, in a family riven by extreme poverty, mental illness, and racial prejudice. He plunges ecstatically into the nightlife of Harlem. It is the life Malcolm has long envisioned for himself -- yet he finds it hollow at the core. Lonely and confused, he starts to have odd dreams and visions of a mysterious black prophet who calls himself Elijah, the beginning of a religious conversion that will overthrow his whole world.
As race riots break out across the homefront, and Harlem slides toward the brink, Jonah and Malcolm must confront their own demons. Their next meeting, in the midst of turmoil, will lead them both to make fateful choices, for themselves and for their community.
Strivers Row completes the "City of Fire" trilogy begun with Dreamland and Paradise Alley. Master storyteller Kevin Baker has once again woven an epic tale set against the panoramic backdrop of a vanished New York. Here is a world of dream books and lindyhoppers, jazz greats and secret cults -- the forgotten black history of New York City, restored to passionate life on every page.