In examining his life, Brent Staples’ PARALLEL TIME depicts a youth mired in the turmoil of family dysfunction and inner-city violence. Staples’ early adulthood was spent pursuing college and graduate school educations in milieus which foregrounded his racial and class differences from the great majority of his associates. While earning a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Chicago, he also became a free-lance journalist and earned a reputation that led to an editorship at THE NEW YORK TIMES. At the same time, however, his younger brother Blake was murdered by a competitor in the drug underworld of Roanoke, Virginia. As a means of exploring the conflicted emotions about his family and his past thrown into sharp relief by Blake’s death, Staples wrote this book.
To prevent the contrast between his and Blake’s life from serving the purposes of a dominant culture eager for evidence of the continuing viability of the American Dream, Staples probes his family’s loss for what it reveals about the worsening menace of racism facing African American youth and the arbitrary interplay of character, historical moment, and random chance shaping and misshaping individual destinies. The eldest son of nine children trapped by their father’s alcoholism and mother’s depression, Brent Staples was determined at a young age to escape his family’s pathology. The ensnarements of friends and siblings by the criminality, early parenthood, and drug usage...
(The entire section is 442 words.)