First published by St. Martin's Press in 1986, Blackbird is a funny, moving, coming-of-age novel about growing up black and gay in southern California. The lead character, Johnnie Ray Rousseau, is a high school student upset over losing the lead role in the school staging of Romeo and Juliet. As if that weren't enough, his best friend has been beaten badly by his father, and his girlfriend is pressuring him to have sex for the first time. All the while, he's intrigued by Marshall MacNeill, whom he meets at an audition and is surely the sexiest man to walk God's green earth--at least according to Johnnie Ray. This novel of adolescent awakening is as fresh and heartfelt as it was when first published.
With an introduction by Michael Nava, who is best-known for his gay mystery novels featuring Henry Rios, five of which have won Lambda Literary Awards, including Goldenboy and Howtown. He lives in San Francisco.
Blackbird just wasn't the first Black gay coming out tale; it was--and still is--one of the quirkiest and funniest novels I've ever read. Duplechan's lyrical, free-floating prose is joyful, even when tackling teen angst and (gasp!) an exorcism. And while the worlds they exist in and world views they possess are very different, Johnnie Ray Rousseau helped pave the literary road that my own fictional creations, Mitchell "Little Bit" Crawford & Raheim "Pooquie" Rivers, have traveled. There are very few books that, when mentioned, make me smile; Blackbird is on that very short list.
-James Earl Hardy, author of the B-Boy Blues series
Blackbird soars--it's a funny, beautifully written novel. I fell in love with Johnnie Ray. Larry Duplechan is Patrick Dennis with a brain.