Baltimore Boys

I wrote about R. Eric Thomas here, describing Thomas’s hilarious take on Mister Rogers and the mythical land of Bubbleland in his book of essays, Here for It, or, How to Save Your Soul in America.

Last week I read Thomas’s YA novel Kings of B’more. It’s such a good book. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not a Young Adult, but don’t let that stop you. If you enjoy meaningful, original, and funny fiction, it’s the book for you.

The main characters are two young gay Black men, Harrison and Linus, who live in Baltimore. They are funny, smart, and real. Like most adolescents, they watch their parents’ behavior carefully, trying to figure out how to become adults. But they watch with a skeptical, ironic attitude.

Here’s just one example of how gently, realistically funny this book is. The boys observe that their fathers, casual friends, take forever to say goodbye to one another. The two men seem unable both to carry on a conversation and end one. Near the novel’s close, Harrison’s father, Wally, calls Linus’s father to try to resolve some difficulties between the boys and their families. Linus is riding in the car with his dad, Obed, listening in. This is what he hears:

“What’s up, man?’

“How you doing?”

“All right. All right. How are you?”

“Can’t complain, brother. You know.”

“Yeah. I know.”


“Right.” Linus was amazed that these two men were apparently friends, possibly good friends . . . and yet they seemed to have nothing to say.

After a while, it becomes clear that Obed is out of the loop. He’s not aware of the problems the boys have been having and doesn’t even know the whereabouts of his wife and son.

“Man, ain’t nobody in this house. . . . I don’t know. I just live here.”

“I know that’s right.”

“Tell me about it.”

Both men laughed. Incredible.

“All right,” said Wally. “Thanks . . . for your help with everything, Obed.”

“Course. Absolutely. Y’all drive safe, okay. We’ll see you soon.”

“All right.”


“Take care.”

This went on for a while. Linus tuned out slightly.

The boys’ parents are likeable and rounded characters, as are their friends. Harrison’s older sister Corinne seems distant and troubled at first, but ends up shadowing him around the city to keep him out of trouble. This is just one of many sweet surprises in this book.

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