The selection is a review of acclaimed novels by Donald Goines:
Dopefiend, Whoreson, and White Man’s Justice, Black Man’s Grief are what Greg Goode of the University of Rochester called, “A new fictional genre…ghetto realism.”
Raw. This is the word that describes Dopefiend. Based in a Detroit ghetto, Goines tells you the story about his experiences as an addict. He places the reader in very uncomfortable situations: junkies getting their fix, prostitutes with their “johns,” and the use of heroine being cooked up. Goines hits you with the needle that leaves a mark in your psyche.
Like any great novel, the unexpected is vital. In Dopefiend, the unexpected is deliberately disturbing. There are very few characters in this novel, but they impact each chapter.
Porky, the dealer, controls the highs and lows of his junkies with the quality of his white powder. Terry, a junkie, uses his girlfriend and friends just to get a fix. Terry, Teddy’s girl, becomes her parents worst nightmare as the story progresses: Their beautiful girl turned addict.
As the junkies need their fix, (to get better, or just to get by), Goines vicariously makes you feel their predicament. You’re in the middle of the inner city circle of death. Horrifying, but real.
I recommend this Dopefiend by Donald Goines: An extraordinary story of the ordinary life of a hardcore junkie. Most importantly, this book is Raw.
I have read two prior books by Goines: Dopefiend and White Man’s Justice, Black Man’s Grief. Both books were raw and intense because of the time and space Goines’ establishes. After I read the synopsis on the back cover of Whoreson, I was prepared to go back to the inner-city. However, I was not prepared for the vernacular of the ghetto in the form of ‘gritty street talk’ and the vulgarity backed up with physical brutality. Typical of Goines’ other novels, you are lead vicariously through the story with one character’s intentions and unforeseen circumstances. In Whoreson, however, the main character is a sixteen year old pimp.
Whoreson Jones was born to be a pimp. From the womb of a prostitute named Jessie, to taking her ‘trap’ money while Jessie worked streets for ‘tricks.’ This was the education that his mom planned out for Whoreson. At sixteen, he was on the streets and out of school, just what Jessie wanted for her son.
The real life of pimping and copping women to be his prostitutes leads to many contemptuous corners in the novel. By the time you reach the middle of the book, you feel as if you’ve witnessed two points: a trifling of compassion and a great deal of despondent situations.
This is where the explosion of Whoreson really happens. The unpredictable elements of Whoreson Jones and his prostitutes are riveting. Donald Goines, once again, tells the reader the point of view from the slum level of the inner-city ghetto.
Near the conclusion of Whoreson, you sense that a change might occur for Whoreson Jones. Perhaps he will get away from the slums and make it in a new environment. You question yourself for the actions that he takes to achieve this goal. And then you realize that you finished another excellent story by Donald Goines.
White Man’s Justice, Black Man’s Grief
An Angry Preface “There are cases of people…spending more than a year in county jails simply because they couldn’t raise bail-bond money.”
“I’m speaking for the people who picked up on the streets or stopped for minor traffic violations…simply because the arresting policeman doesn’t like their skin color or the way they walk or talk or dress or wear their hair.”
Donald Goines tells you from the ‘Angry Preface’ that the money involved in the bail-bond’s business are enough to leave a person for an extended amount of time in jail. He also informs you about the bigotry of some officials when it comes to arresting a person first on their appearance.
Behind bars is where Goines places you. You begin to step in a black man’s outlook of imprisonment as seen through the eyes of Chester Hines.
Everything is left on the cell floor those awaiting a trial, everything. Rules are made by those who don’t have fear. Chester and another man he befriends, Willie keep their ground because of mental toughness. The fear of losing their ground to another man is tested. In fact, it is the fear that is placed with the men in while they are locked up. The fear: food being taking away from another man, not having a bunk to sleep on, sodomy and rape. The fear of a judge giving you a higher sentence because you are black.
I was not prepared for what happened to Chester Hines in the conclusion of “White Man’s Justice, Black Man’s Grief.” This is attributed to Donald Goines’ method of writing: keeping you contained with the hope of one character, and changing their outcome.
Brace yourself the bold talk and the brash actions. This is another hardcore novel like Dopefeind in the idea that a central character, like Chester engrosses you. Chapter by chapter Donald Goines makes the turnkey open your mind to a gripping story.
These books are available at Amazon: Donald Goines