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The Long Blue Moan

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The Long Blue Moan by L. M. Ross is about 4 African-American men who meet at Performing Arts High. They are thrown together as part of a class assignment. They form a musical group and the result of that group is a hit song. The group, successful as it is, does not stay together, but the 4 men within the group continue a relationship with each other that spans more than 20 years. The time period during which these men go from teenagers just starting to explore what they’ll do with their lives on through their adulthood is the late 1970’s through the 1990’s. It covers the time period when talented young men got sick and died from what at first was some nameless insidious disease. It addresses the devastation and the senseless loss of so much promise that resulted from what is essentially a basic need. It is also an intensely close and personal look at what it’s like from a Black urban perspective to pursue dreams, expectations, and careers, squander them, or simply watch them die.

There is Ty who has a gift for writing and a strong sense of doing the right thing, but at what cost do we all do the right thing? David is a dancer with a flair and style all his own. His friends understand that’s what makes him special. Others don’t always see David in that light. Browny has an amazing ability to sing and wants to perform opera. While his voice soars to great heights, his life plummets to disturbing lows. And then there’s Pascal, who wants to be an actor. He’s got the looks for it, but is that facade just a Dorian Gray illusion behind which is a more sinister face?

There are gay relationships in The Long Blue Moan, and there are explicit descriptions of the sex involved in those relationships. But to say that this book is about gay sex or just sex at all is like saying Romeo and Juliet is about teenagers on a balcony, and it is to miss the whole point of the book.

L. M. Ross doesn’t create characters; he creates people that you feel from the inside out. These people are not merely words on a page; they are living, breathing human beings, and their stories are about love, loss, deep loneliness, anger and hard edged rage. It’s about the choices people make in this life and the result or consequences of those choices. It’s about loyalty and the lack of it. It’s about decency, and it’s also about twisted people and those who do their best to love those souls anyway.

And binding all of this together, there is some of the finest writing I have ever read. It is lyrical, it has a flow and rhythm that’s almost mesmerizing, and it is compelling reading. It touched me in places nothing I’ve read before has reached, because it portrays a life style that’s outside my experience during a time period I thought I understood. Reading this book was like being offered the opportunity to understand a perspective on lives and what motivates the people who have to live and sometimes simply endure them that it’s highly unlikely I would have grasped through any other means.

I highly recommend The Long Blue Moan to anyone who wants to read an adult story about people you will remember long after you finish that last page and have some idea just what a Long Blue Moan is.

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