“How’s the book doing?”  Everyone asks with an inquiring smile.  

I smile and reply, “I’m not really sure yet.”, because, I’m not sure what they mean by “doing” .  Because “doing’” can mean different things to different people.

I assume that by “doing” they mean how many books have been sold, which means how much money have I made.  And then I feel that maybe I haven’t been working aggressively enough to promote the book.  So I go into overdrive, contacting outlets that might allow me to discuss the work that is being done in STATE OF THE NATION.

Racism Bigotry Wiggers Faggots Perverts NonEmpathetic Police State Apparatus Prostitution Immigration Legionnaires Disease Cancer AIDS HIV Pedophilia incest

But then I have to remind myself 

I did not write STATE OF THE NATION to make a lot of money.

I did not write it to be mainstream

To “crossover”

Yes, I want my book to touch as many lives as possible

But I also want it to be ‘cool’.

And cool is NOT mainstream.

That is the same reason I shopped my book to independents.  I didn’t want a phalanx of editors reconfiguring the book into a book of the month selection.  Quieting my voice.  diluting the rawness of the work because they might interpret the intentional as a misstep.

“Why are there random names written on blank pages, with no other narrative - delete!”

No.  Those names have meaning.  They are the names of the murdered children of Atlanta.

They are there like ghosts, haunting the chapter that follows their name.

They are the bodies of the black bodies felled by police overeaction.

Do you forget their names?

Well, their names are here.  They are here so that you can’t forget them.  So that you must say them.

Edward Smith, 

Alfred Evans, 

Milton Harvey, 

Yusef Bell, A

ngel Lenair, 

Jeffery Mathis, 

Eric Middlebrooks, 

Chris Richardson, 

Latonya Wilson, 

Aaron Wyche, 

Anthony Carter, 

Earl Terell, 

Clifford Jones, 

Darron Glass, 

Charles Stephens, 

Aaron Jackson, 

Patrick Rogers, 

Lubie Geter, 

Terry Pue, 

Patrick Baltazar, 

Curtis Walker, 

Joseph Bell, 

Timothy Hill, 

William Barrett

Cool is 'the underground'.  Known to a select group of people before the masses jump on board.

Cool is like house music.  The music that wasn’t played on the radio.  That you had to go to the clubs to hear, back before everyone decided that they wanted to hear the same top 40 crap in the clubs that they hear on the radio.

Cool is the opening gasps of Michael Jackson on “Workin’ Day and Night”.  Where he’s African, elemental; chanting along to that tribal, percussive beat before it descends into crossover banality.


Kirkus Review of "State of the Nation": A mesmerizing tale of racial inequity and sexual discovery.....

In this debut novel, a trio of black teenagers grapples with racial prejudice while a serial killer preys on black children in Atlanta. 

Teens Santos, Luq, and Dion spend much of their days together “wilding out,” trying to pass the time and hustle up some cash. All three of them are perennially strapped for money—Dion, who dresses up like a girl and refers to himself as a lady, turns tricks with men for meager payouts. Santos makes regular visits to a clinic to participate in an experimental initiative that’s eerily similar to the infamous Tuskegee Experiment, darkly and poignantly depicted by Ambrose. At one point, Santos is reduced to fighting in a “faggot in a box,” a brawling match that pits one gay fighter against another, a debasement that fetches him an embarrassing $300 prize. Luq lives in a mostly white suburb—he’s one of seven black students at a high school of 435—and plans to attend the Pittsburgh School of Design after he graduates. Unlike Santos and Dion, he’s deeply conflicted about his sexual identity and a virgin, though he suffers sexual assault at the hands of men more than once in the story. All three wrestle with the burden of racial prejudice, are routinely treated with contemptuous suspicion by the police, and all but dismissed when they turn to officers for help. In his absorbing book, Ambrose hauntingly creates an atmosphere of dread and predation by continually referring to the serial murder of black children in Atlanta in the late 1970s and early ’80s, an epidemic of violent crime that reinforced for many the vulnerability of black communities. This isn’t a plot-driven novel, but the characters are richly drawn and the themes intelligently evoked. The writing swings between a poetically lyrical narrative and grittily authentic dialogue. An older black man, Silas, who still seethes with anger over his unwitting participation in the Tuskegee Experiment, affectingly describes the teens’ collective predicament: “The cops aren’t here to protect you. They here to protect the world FROM you. ‘Cause they convinced the world that we all criminals; ain’t got no value.”

A mesmerizing tale of racial inequality and sexual discovery.    "Kirkus Review"