[Part of a series of posts previewing the novel Sin Against the Race.]
In addition to meeting his late cousin’s friends, Alfonso meets two folks closer to his age: Bill Hawk and Roy Prince.
Before there was Alfonso R. Berry III, there was Bill Hawk, an 18-year-old freshman. In early drafts of Sin Against the Race, Bill was my major protagonist. SATR, in fact, started life as a short story where Bill, just coming to terms with his sexuality, witnesses a vicious gay bashing in the large park across from his family’s apartment. In that story, I wanted to contrast his joy at coming out with the fear he has that his new identity will mean new oppressions. One could say, accurately, that Bill’s experiences, as I first envisioned them, mirrored my own at that stage in my life.
Bill comes from a small town and moves to the big city to go to college. He goes to Alfonso’s family church as well as the same college. That’s how they meet, on the main drag on campus where student groups table.
“A young brother with a baby face came and stood at the table. He wore blue jeans and a black hoodie with a green shirt peeking from beneath. Alfonso thought he looked shorted than himself, but he had a stockier build, broader shoulders padded with muscles. The brother seemed particularly interested in the brochure about the tutorial program [the African Students Association] cosponsored with the Beacon Hill First Baptist Church.”
-from p. 24, SIN AGAINST THE RACE
Bill has some history. Early on, we find out that he had a boyfriend in high school, Gabriel. They had adventures of the sort I wish I had had in high school. Any crushes I had in high school I kept quite to myself, and never seemed destined to be reciprocated. Bill and Gabriel met in the locker room showers—a detail I had in earlier drafts, but does not appear in the final book. They were the only ones in the showers and Gabriel was clearly putting on a display, slowly rinsing himself off under the stream of water for Bill’s benefit. Gabriel gave Bill permission to pursue him, and Bill leapt at the chance, willingly allowing Gabriel “to guide them wherever imagination saw fit.”
Bill lives on the periphery of the closet—out to himself and a few select others. Alfonso finds a lot to admire in him.
Roy Prince doesn’t know what a closet is, other than a place to hold his fabulous wardrobe. We meet him when Alfonso sees him sitting on the bus.
“He looked taller, still skinny, still dressed sharp. He accented his outfit with a red vest, a silver feather earring on his left lobe, and a smallish black trilby cocked back, revealing his short red hair. Carlton described Roy as coming out of the womb with zero fucks to give, his first word likely a high-flung snap with lips pursed. He began hanging at Sammy’s as a precocious 10-year-old, with his mother’s blessing. He’d go with her shopping, then just stay there. She died when he was in middle school. With his father often away on long hauls in his truck, the whole village stepped in to raise this child of Carver Street.”
-from p. 17, SIN AGAINST THE RACE
An 18-year-old freshman like Bill, Roy is a theater major, having already done Shakespeare in high school. For Alfonso, the frustrated, wannabe dancer, who viewed Roy only from a distance, the thespian is a beacon of what his life could be. Alfonso sees Roy living life on his own terms, despite having a seemingly indifferent father who doesn’t appear to understand him. A condition Alfonso knows all too well.
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