Some days, it seems as though you have su­per pow­ers.

That must be the ex­pla­na­tion for be­ing un­seen. That’s why there are days when no­body looks at you. There’s no ac­knowl­edg­ment that you ex­ist. In the new book, “What Color is Your Hoodie? Es­says on Black Gay Iden­tity,” by Jarrett Neal, the rea­son is not so trans­par­ent.

Born to a four­teen-year-old mother, raised in a house­hold with an al­co­holic grand­fa­ther, Jarrett Neal was in eighth grade when his gym class ac­ci­den­tally walked in on their coach show­er­ing. It was Neal’s first glimpse of a naked man, and it “ended my boy­hood,” he says.

He was well into col­lege when he fi­nally ad­mit­ted to him­self that he was at­tracted to men; still, the “daily taunts” from his more ath­letic, more self-con­fi­dent peers and the ab­sence of a fa­ther haunted him for many years. To coun­ter­act it, Neal joined a gym and worked out tire­lessly, un­til he re­al­ized that he’d never have a body like He-Man. He was never go­ing to make a liv­ing with his physique. In­stead, Neal knew that he had to write.

It was “write or die,” he says, though he’s been told that his style is “ei­ther too black or too gay” and he once as­sumed that “as a boy I wasn’t sup­posed to care about books.” Even so, he de­voured the works of gay men—par­tic­u­larly those who were black. That vo­rac­ity for books led to a teach­ing ca­reer.

In his es­says here, Neal dis­cusses the dearth of gay black men in films and tele­vi­sion, and he de­cries the lack of in­ter­est by white read­ers in the works of black au­thors. He looks at the sex­u­al­ity of gay black men who, like most African-Amer­i­can men, live un­der “sex­ual stereo­types” that cause “a tremen­dous onus ... to live up to …” He writes about black men (some gay) who have made history and changed per­cep­tions within their neigh­bor­hoods or in­dus­tries. And as a black man mar­ried to a white man, he notes that racism within the gay com­mu­nity is as big a prob­lem as it is any­where else.

Au­thor Jarrett Neal is not shy.

There’s no waf­fling in this book, and noth­ing held back. Neal dis­cusses gay porn as blithely as he does mod­ern lit­er­a­ture; he re­mem­bers his child­hood with the same pas­sion as he does com­ing out. Such power and force in writ­ing serves to give read­ers— straight or gay—a solid un­der­stand­ing of the points he tries to make. We might laugh or raise our eye­brows, but we also em­pathize or, as the case may be, sym­pa­thize.

What mars this oth­er­wise well-done col­lec­tion of es­says is its slop­pi­ness. “What Color is Your Hoodie?” is rid­dled with mis­spellings and punc­tu­a­tion mis­takes which, be­cause of the fre­quency, al­most made me want to quit this book too many times.

If you can for­give that dis­trac­tion, then this un­usual book is a good read that might ac­tu­ally change minds. Truth­ful, blunt, and thought­pro­vok­ing, re­gret­table mis­takes aside, “What Color is Your Hoodie?” should be seen.

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