Cary Alan Johnson's 'Desire Lines'

  • by Cornelius Washington
  • Tuesday September 13, 2022
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author Cary Alan Johnson
author Cary Alan Johnson

This novel sets one back, not just in time and place, but in its stunning honesty. Cary Alan Johnson's serious and romantic novel (Querelle Press) tells of life in New York City during the time when HIV/AIDS was raging and ravaging the LGBTQ community, specifically the African-American community.

Johnson is a true world citizen and an excellent writer who has transported the reader, providing serious flashbacks of circumnavigating friendships, family, drugs, hope, sensuality and young adulthood.

The book's authenticity begins with paragraphs of Desire, the book's titular protagonist, losing his virginity and continues throughout. It serves the Black hand side of gritty sex, racism, fear, homophobia, purpose and longing, a literary road map of all of the hot spots of 'the city that never sleeps' but does many other things that begin with the letter F.

Lines' saga with his best friend, Regina, a biracial hetero woman, are lovingly documented. It's achingly evident that he is a shining example of the rigor and discipline needed by many Black gay men in order to position themselves to live their best lives, on every level. His sophistication, style and authenticity are evident in every syllable.

Never have I ever read a book that provoked past, present and future simultaneously, with such romanticism. It made me mindful of AIDS in the 1980s, COVID and monkey pox presently and the evolution of the way Black gay males will be seen in the future.

I am having hopeful thoughts of who would dare buy the screen rights for the biopic of this amazing life, and stream this story to a new generation of young Black LGBTQ viewers, to truly learn the morals, values and virtues required to stand in their collective truth.

Lately, there has been an excess of pathologically diseased Black gay reality shows, and I can clearly see that this book, if turned into a series, will become the standard by which all others would be judged against.

I was extremely moved by not only the author, but, also by the advance praise of lesbian icon by the Bay, Jewelle Gomez, and the immortal John Rechy, author of the definitive gay classic, "City of Night."

"Desire Lines" is not a just debut. It is a document and declaration of bravery.

Cary Alan Johnson will be at Fabulosa Books, Sept. 19, 7pm with Brontez Purnell ('100 Boyfriends'), 489 Castro St.

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