At nine-years-old, D. Watkins has three concerns in life: picking his
dad’s lotto numbers, keeping his Nikes free of creases, and being a man.
Directly in his periphery is east Baltimore, a poverty-stricken city
battling the height of a crack epidemic just hours from the nation’s
capital. Watkins, like many boys around him, is thrust out of childhood
and into a world where manhood means surviving by slinging crack on
street corners and finding himself on the wrong side of pistols. For
thirty years, Watkins is forced safeguard every moment of joy he
experiences, or risk losing himself entirely. Now, for the first time,
Watkins harnesses these moments to tell the story of how he matured into
the D. Watkins we know today—beloved author, college professor,
editor-at-large of Salon.com, and devoted husband and father.
Black Boy Smile lays bare Watkins’ relationship with his father and brotherhoods with boys around him. He shares candid recollections of early assaults on his body and mind and how he coped through stoic silence disguised as manhood. His harrowing pursuit for redemption, written in his signature street style, pinpoints how generational hardship, left raw and unnurtured, breeds toxic masculinity. Watkins discovers a love for books, is admitted to two graduate programs, meets with his future wife—an attorney—and finds true freedom in fatherhood.
Equally moving and liberating, Black Boy Smile is D. Watkins’ love letter to Black boys in concrete cities, a daring testimony that brings to life the contradictions, fears, and hopes of boys hurdling headfirst into adulthood. Black Boy Smile is a story that proves that when we acknowledge the fallacies of our past, we can uncover the path toward self-discovery. Black Boy Smile is the story of a Black boy who healed.
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