I just finished reading The Strivers’ Row Spy, and I wanted to share my thoughts.
My heart fell into my stomach. I’d tried to avoid ever letting Loretta experience such embarrassment. But I knew she’d eventually come face-to-face with the sting of racism. I always wanted her to see me as her protector, someone who wouldn’t allow anyone to talk down to me. But here it was, and the look on her face hurt me more than the manager’s request itself.
Written by Jason Overstreet, The Strivers’ Row Spy is a thriller that follows college graduate Sidney Temple on the streets of New York during the Harlem Renaissance. Temple has been hired by J. Edgar Hoover to be the FBI’s first African American agent, and his assignment is to spy on Marcus Garvey. Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) is picking up major steam, and Temple is needed to help take him down. He not only uses his access to spy on Marcus Garvey, but he provides insider information to W.E.B. Du Bois, founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Things quickly become dangerous for everyone involved, particularly Temple and his family.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, mainly due to its concept. Historical fictions are great ways to highlight cultural and political movements throughout history, and the Harlem Renaissance left a major imprint on the Black American narrative. Overstreet’s writing style is similar to that of Richard Wright, which made this a smooth and entertaining read. He also did a good job of developing the relationship between each character, particularly the one between Sidney Temple and his wife, Loretta.
My only issue was with the main character and his political views. Not only would Temple be considered a race traitor for taking on this assignment, but he was an integrationist who hated Garvey’s philosophy. The condescending undertones in his references of him proved it, and the author’s biased depiction of Garvey didn’t help. However, the pacing and events throughout the story did cloud my annoyance, so not too much harm was done.
This is Jason Overstreet’s debut novel, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s interested in Black American history and culture. For additional information on upcoming projects, check out his official website. You can also connect with him on Twitter.
Until Next Time…