The setting is Harlem, a black neighborhood in the northeast corner of Manhattan in New York City. The time is the mid-1960s. It is twilight on a Friday. As the novel opens, Alfred Brooks, an African American seventeen-year-old high-school dropout, waits on his apartment building's front stoop for his best friend, James. When Alfred was ten years old, his father left home; when he was thirteen, his mother died of pneumonia. On both occasions, Alfred's pal James stood by him. Now, Alfred lives with his Aunt Pearl and her three young daughters, Charlene, Sandra, and Paula.James is late, and Alfred suspects a problem. Alfred believes his friend may be in bad company. Alfred hurries to the basement clubroom where he finds James with Major, Hollis, and Sonny. While
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