My name is Miles Johnson. I grew up in Oakwood, a mid-sized Northeastern suburb a stone's throw from The City. You can see The City's silhouette from some parts of town—the wedges, spires, and arcs of buildings that symbolize networks of enterprise and ambition. Many of my friends' parents prospered there as business owners, lawyers, accountants, and corporate managers. Oakwood neighborhoods that didn't enjoy city vistas still offer the cocoon of well-swept streets canopied by the branches of maple, ash, and oak trees. In spring and summer, when the light is just right, reflections from the leaves of those trees give the houses, ranging from modest multifamily dwellings to mansions, a greenish tinge and gently dancing patterns of sunlight and shade.
But I would soon find out in the starkest terms that a boy must struggle to become a man even in my peaceful town —where squirrels dart across quiet streets dappled with shadows. And even in my town, with its strong African -American presence—where proud talk of our Black heritage, our great African past, and the symbolic meanings of kente cloth take on an almost magical significance —a black boy needs guidance on his quest to become a black man.
. . .And so begins Eric's timeless story. It's the dawn of the 21st century, and Miles Johnson is on the cusp of tumultuous changes in his life –he has just become a teenager and is wrestling with higher expectations from the adults in his life and his diminished social standing as a freshman in high school. A tragedy and unexpected and unwanted new responsibilities add to Miles's sense of vulnerability. Although he is surrounded by people who love him, he feels alone. He embarks upon the most important journey of his life during all these changes - becoming a black man. He is joined on his quest by an unlikely trio of companions: a riddle whose answer will take Miles's life in an unexpected direction, a moth-eaten strip of Kente cloth, and a mysterious neighborhood shopkeeper. To read or listen to Eric’s book, press the “Read/Listen” button below.