Hardships. Growing pains. Revelations. Triumphs. Victories. Being a free black man in America has its advantages as well as disadvantages and Darnell L. Moore’s No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America is a journey by a member of the LGBTQ community that many of us can relate to. Born into tough circumstances; his ideal of masculinity questioned, the Camden, New Jersey-reared author stopped running from himself, confronted his enemies, and fully realized his lifelong purpose. Moore opens up about his life in a curated recollection that provides a look inside how society, whether your secular orientation and socio-economic strays, is shaped by cultural and sub-cultural normals alike.
Black Enterprise: This project, No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America, is not a tell-all. What is the best way to describe this book?
Moore: “It’s a memoir that is both a personal and a social study into a complex, beautiful and messy world of a young black person who came of age in an era that forced one to wear the mask as well as bite the bullet in order to survive. I tried my best to offer snapshots of my life, and the various forces that shaped me.
Healing and survival, and in your case, death, are central themes throughout this book. How are your own interactions with youths grappling with these themes similar to your own?
I was honest about my dances with depression and suicidal attempts in the book. But I was also honest about the many people who aided in my survival. We cannot expect young people to be so strong and so self-loving as to navigate life on their own. Young people need communities who can wrap them in support. I’ve spent a little more than two decades working with young people in my role as an educator, therapist, program director, and much more. I’ve spent a considerable amount of that time working with LGBTQ youth of color.
Pride Month seems to be more important than ever given the current administration’s stance on gay rights and the more recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Colorado baker refusing to serve a same-sex couple. But we have positives: FX’s Pose and Viceland’s My House, which both highlight the black and Latino ballroom scene. Just as those ‘houses’ serve as a sense of community how will your book foster the same?
I wrote the book for the 16-year-old version of me. I wrote it for young people, and the many individuals and institutions charged with their care. I hope that black young people can see semblances of themselves, as well as their struggles and joys, in it. And I hope some reader will feel as if they are understood.
What advice or steps would you give aspiring authors on the art of writing a book from conceptualizing to securing a deal to completion to marketing?
Know what it is you want to write. Know who it is you are writing to and in conversation with. Be clear. Be specific. And know the reason you want to write a book before beginning the journey to publishing. Talk to folks who have written published books. All of my connections, to my agent and publishing house, were forged by friends and writing peers. Build a community of peers and through that community; reach out to people who may be able to help you.
Orators and oral history are mentioned several times starting with your great-grandmother to work as a feminist, activist, and Black Lives Matter supporter. Touring, with numerous stops in small and renowned bookstores, allows your readers to connect with you on a more spiritual, personal level. What voice will readers discover throughout this memoir?
It’s an honest and vulnerable voice. Sometimes it’s sermonic. Sometimes it’s poetic. Sometimes it’s analytical. But it’s always gesturing toward a love for black people.
How has queerness and masculinity appeared in your life and shaped your character throughout the years?
The idea of manhood and masculinity have functioned like cages in my life. I am finally getting free. Cages aren’t doorways. Queerness, or rather, defying norms and rules have been a key to my freedom. It’s been a journey, and still is, but it’s been worth it.
To read more about Moore’s journey and purchase his book, visit www.darnelllmoore.com.