A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK · A NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITOR'S CHOICE
The debut novel from television WRITER/PRODUCER OF THE CHI, NARCOS, and BEL-AIR tells a fierce and riveting queer coming-of-age story following the personal and political awakening of a young, gay, Black man in 1980s New York City.
"Consistently engrossing." —New York Times Book Review
“Full of joy and righteous anger, sex and straight talk, brilliant storytelling and humor... A spectacularly researched Dickensian tale with vibrant characters and dozens of famous cameos, it is precisely the book we’ve needed for a long time.” —Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Less
Earl "Trey" Singleton III arrives in New York City with only a few dollars in his pocket. Born into a wealthy Black Indianapolis family, at 17, he is ready to leave his overbearing parents and their expectations behind.
In the city, Trey meets up with a cast of characters that changes his life forever. He volunteers at a renegade home hospice for AIDS patients, and after being put to the test by gay rights activists, becomes a member of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). Along the way Trey attempts to navigate past traumas and searches for ways to maintain familial relationships—all while seeking the meaning of life amid so much death.
Vibrant, humorous, and fraught with entanglements, Rasheed Newson’s My Government Means to Kill Me is an exhilarating, fast-paced coming-of-age story that lends itself to a larger discussion about what it means for a young gay Black man in the mid-1980s to come to terms with his role in the midst of a political and social reckoning.
TV writer and producer Newson debuts with a crisp fictitious memoir of a gay Black man's coming-of-age in mid-1980s New York City. Earl "Trey" Singleton III spurns his wealthy Indianapolis family to move to Manhattan at age 17 in 1985. He struggles to find a job or a place to live, and becomes a regular at Mt. Morris, one of the last remaining bathhouses. There, between his frequent sexual encounters, he befriends civil rights leader Bayard Rustin. At Rustin's urging that Trey become politically involved, Trey wins a Pyrrhic victory against his negligent landlord, Fred Trump. Trey then begins volunteering at an AIDS hospice and joins the direct-action group ACT UP. Later, Trey's will is tested after he's arrested at a mostly white protest against the FDA, then hears shocking news about a friend. Though the choice to frame this as a memoir remains a bit curious, as doing so doesn't add much to the narrative, Newson can turn a sharp phrase (a job loss teaches Trey that "affection never outlasted need"), and his footnotes to historic figures provide context and nuance ("A list of his undeniable accomplishments could only be rivaled in length by a list of the names of other LGBTQ+ activists with whom he clashed, offended, and rebuked," he writes of Larry Kramer). It adds up to an eloquent story of the struggle for gay liberation.
I devoured this book in just a couple of days. Inspirational, thrilling, funny, and very sexy. Definite recommend.