The man who would understand miracles is as dull as the general who drafts answers to an army of rhetorical questions. Yet in literature at least, miracles have to seem natural—that is, as belonging to the nature of things an author is creating.
Claude Brown's miracle is that from a childhood spent amidst crime, poverty, dope, promiscuity, violence and perversion, he managed to wrest himself into a belief that life could be different and better than that. The streets, as he says in his autobiography [Manchild in the Promised Land], were his home, though never his house; his house was a place with which he never made peace till he moved from it, while the streets were what gave him his sense of individuality. Brown begins his book when, at thirteen, he is struck by a bullet when trying to steal bedsheets and linen from a clothesline. He ends it in the present, as a student in his late twenties ready to graduate from a good university. During the course of the book Brown reminisces about his first experiences in "catting" (spending the night away from home); his bebopping jousts with the Buccaneer gang; his numerous visits to Children's Court; and his two years at Wiltwyck School for Boys. (p. 700)
Brown's response to life, both in the liturgical immediacy and in his lyrical retelling, provides an affirmation of Harlem's problems and its hopes for a change. His search is for a meaningful father. He has a real one, whose activity consists of work...
(The entire section is 613 words.)