Kehinde Garrison is not afraid to mix literary genres while addressing societal concerns in this hip-hop novel. Nonfiction, fantasy, mystery and fate are united to analyze American society and the victims of capitalism in his debut novel, “American Delinquents: An Edurtainment Novel.” With whirlwind subplots and numerous underlying themes, Garrison is in a race to develop characters, a plot and his own ideological agenda.
Garrison relives his experiences through his new book, “American Delinquents.” Image courtesy of the author. In the form of intertwining vignettes, four main characters’ personal battles and journeys bring the tale to life, culminating in the District of Columbia’s Community for Creative Non-Violence shelter. Joseph Harrison, jilted by capitalism, attempts to evade its core principles by robbing a bank in his South Carolina town. However, he fails to overcome some of capitalism’s downsides of sex, drugs, irrational spending and its burden— the overwhelming desire to accomplish the “American Dream”with a family in a home of his own. Solomon, in New York by way of Frederick, Md., is the archetype of the highs and lows of “keeping up with the Joneses” in the corporate world. Regina Dierhorn, from a Native American reservation in New Mexico, struggles with gender, race and upward mobility in the male-dominated FBI. Under the mask of charity, good nature and community advocacy, Albert Wojciechowski operates an unethical nonprofit — exploiting the residents he used to dine among — and leads an immoral private life. In the end, these four completely different characters climatically collide together with a suicide, police raid, several homicides and one promising act of kindness.
Unfortunately, the novel’s strengths in imagery and detail are also its weaknesses. The hip-hop genre allows for the social and verbal vulgarities that contribute to the underbelly of Garrison’s southern, western and eastern urban and rural settings. Outside of excessive hip-hop lyrics, mixed-urban dialects and a few stereotypes, the novel is not necessarily of the hip-hop genre. It fails to explain the angst and sometimes self-destructive mindset that plagues the individuality and anarchy normally associated with that literary genre. Despite the novel’s imagery and symbolism, which resemble the meticulous nature of realism, the novel fails to create fluidity among the details.
The characters have symmetry with regard to the human struggle to attain stability within their respective ideologies, but at times Garrison’s wildly overstated attempt to write an exposé of the capitalist nature of humanity loses structure. There are so many themes and subplots in the novel that a reader can easily become overwhelmed and fail to understand the author’s message. In Garrison’s well-intended eagerness to “edutain,” the plot can be patronizing and overbearing