A review of Michael Simanga's book

In The Shadow of The Son

by Marcus Brown

The novel is set in current day inner city, U.S.A.; the main character Isaiah Bishop is a Viet Nam vet and a high school teacher in one of the roughest areas in the city. He felt the pressure and responsibility that some teachers have when they are connected to the students and the community. King a former student finds himself caught between the treachery of the mean streets and that of city hall.

The work of fiction by Michael Simanga, was given to me by elder, Leon Dixon of the W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center. As an avid reader I normally peruse and study the pages of non-fiction books, but this novel is of a different breed. Not only does the author keep you turning pages with his contemporary style of writing, the book also deals directly with the current social, political, educational and economic climate of today’s urban core, both in the streets and city hall. I read the first 100 pages within a few hours of breaking the cover. Simanga is able to capture the essence of urban life and the struggle that comes along with it. The characters in the novel were realistic and the gruesome activities that unfolded around them stirred memories of students I’ve taught and the limited opportunities available to them, especially black males. Given our current state of the union, it sheds light on a war that many of us are semi-familiar with, the war on drugs, the war between gangsters and thugs to sell drugs, the prisoners of war held hostage in their own homes, and the war between the wicked streets of the city and young black males that struggle to rise above them.

The intricate plot of political scandal, gang violence and love are woven together like a well-put together piece of mud cloth. The author, through his poetic vice allows you to feel the love, pain, intellect, fear, confusion and anger of each character.

Comparable in many respects to Sam Greenlee’s "The Spook Who Sat by the Door" Michael Simanga vividly captures the destructive behavior of gangs and the graft of politicians while showing the parallels between these two factions as they battle for territory, money, and power. This book comes highly recommended not only for its merit as an excellent novel but also for the level of social commentary it brings to the table.

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