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Strivers Row

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  277 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
The Rev. Jonah Dove is the son of a legendary Harlem minister, and a man troubled in both mind and spirit. He feels himself unworthy and incapable of taking up the burden of running his church from the larger-than-life figure who is his father. He is haunted both by his own, shameful history of "passing" as a white man in college, and by the prospects for his people in the ...more
Hardcover, 547 pages
Published January 31st 2006 by HarperCollins Publishers
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Dec 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kevin Baker is one of those gifted authors who recreates a time and place vividly as if his pen channels a movie camera-- Striver's Row is akin to a long cinematic prose poem about Harlem in the early 1940's. Arguably the most intriguing part of the novel is the portrayal of the early life of Malcolm Little (before he becomes Malcolm X) and how he gets caught up in the murky and edgy life of numbers running in 1940's Harlem. The parallel narrative concerns Jonah Dove, a fictional minister whose ...more
Catherine  Mustread
Sep 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Catherine by: SA 021306
Certainly made me curious about Malcolm X. Sometimes difficult to read about the poor race relations in the USA in the 1940s and to realize that despite progress there is still a long way to go. The alternate points of view between "Red" and Jonah were interesting but I didn't totally understand why that was necessary and the connection between the two seemed contrived.
Jan 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the third book in a triology;something I didn't realize until I got too far in reading this book. It basically takes you back to the earlier days when racisim was more prevelant and intergration was just a thought. Very enlighting story of the everyday people living in Harlem NY and it tells how it impacted the lives of poeple such as Malcolm X, Adam Clayton Powell and the High color Minister Jonah Dove. It took me months to read this book. Sometimes I felt like giving up 'cause there wa ...more
Ron Charles
Nobody makes historical fiction burn like Kevin Baker. After working as the chief researcher for Harry Evans's The American Century , Baker stepped out of the wings and published his first novel, Dreamland , a spectacular, sprawling tale about the violent underbelly of New York in 1910. He followed that three years later with Paradise Alley , an even more incendiary story about the destruction of Manhattan during a Civil War draft riot in 1863. And now he's completed what he calls his "City of F ...more
Sep 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strivers Row is the third of Baker's City of Fire trilogy. The earlier books are Dreamland and Paradise Alley. All take place in New York City.

Strivers Row is a neighborhood housing upper and middle class Negro families including the Doves. Milton Dove, the father of Jonah and father-in-law of Amanda, founded the New Jerusalem Church.

Malcolm is a young hustler. The action takes place in Harlem during the WWII. At a time after the war and beyond the book's time period, Malcolm will become Malcol
Jan 13, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The third novel in a trilogy about New York City by historical novelist Kevin Baker is the weakest of the three. It has the usual mix of fictional and non-fictional characters. Among the latter are Adam Clayton Powell, the Collyer brothers, and Mayor LaGuardia. But the most significant of the historical characters is a young hustler named Malcolm Little, or Detroit Red. We also get various jazz musicians, street criminals (West Indian Archie), and the founders of the Nation of Islam. Baker is a ...more
Priscilla Herrington
Strivers Row is a novel about the wholly fictitious Rev. Jonah Dove and a young Malcolm Little whose paths cross and recross during the summer of 1943. But the primary character is Harlem. Uptown New York. Small's Paradise. Servicemen - white and colored - on leave. Whores. Drug dealers. Adam Clayton Powell. Storefront churches. Strivers Row and Sugar Hill. And jazz.

This is a big book and the CD production, read by Thomas Anthony Penny, does it justice with each of the 18 CDs beginning and endin
Aug 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderfully-written historical novel set in Harlem during WWII. In vivid detail Baker tells the story of the dramatic early life of Malcolm X--depicting, among other things, his coming to terms with his mother's madness and his hustling in the vibrant underground world of wartime Harlem. I love the way that he interweaves Malcolm's narrative with Jonah's. Jonah is the reluctant heir to one of Harlem's historic black churches. Over the course of the novel he struggles with his call, with being ...more
Oct 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strivers Row by Kevin Baker, the final volume of his “City of Fire” trilogy, pulses with Harlem jazz and Lindy hoppers, World War II, and race riots. Milton Dove, son of the interracial couple in the second book, Paradise Alley, had founded the Church of New Jerusalem, built it with the faith and hard work of his people, bought the big house on Strivers Row in Harlem and brought up his son Jonah, ever in the shadow of the famous preacher, to carry it on. Malcolm Little, a colored boy already too ...more
Jun 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think Kevin Baker is one of the finest writers of historical fiction I've ever encountered. He is both a great storyteller, and an astute historical researcher. One of the potential pitfalls of historical fiction is that it's all too easy for a writer to sacrifice story in order to accommodate all the fascinating and important facts that have surfaced in the course of research. Baker successfully avoids that trap in all three volumes of his City of Fire trilogy. He is able to weave an at times ...more
Christopher Wilson
Aug 09, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of historical fiction
Author Kevin Baker takes and immense risk in his latest novel - Striver's Row. This is risk is not about the subject, nor time period and location. Rather it is his choice of main character. In his latest installment Baker provides a glimpse in to the mindset of a young, cavalier, Malcolm Little - the man who would later be known to the world as Malcolm X. As we discover the marvels of 1940's Harlem through the eyes of young Malcolm we are introduced to the makings of this future civil rights le ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

The novel is daring in capturing the mood and history of New York's blacks, particularly since the author is white. Relying on sources including The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Baker melds fact and fiction to paint a vibrant portrait of pre?civil rights America. The period details, the descriptions of Jonah's "passing" in white locales, and Baker's incisive depiction of racism's psychological damage stand out. Yet some critics saw this panoramic history as too ambitious while at the same time fa

I had high hopes for this novel. What a compelling era.
But what a flop.
It was disjointed and annoying in its structure. I am generally perfectly okay with bouncing among narrators, but this did not work for me. The transitions were not smooth and there were gaps in the characters' stories that might not have occurred in a different structure.
I believe, too, that the lack of a sympathetic character was fatal. I couldn't bring myself to care for the selfish, violent, careless, and unambitious p
Feb 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Judy by: Friend in book club in library
A complex fictionalized history of Harlem (NY) in the 1940s
during the world war 2.
Begins with Imaginary encounter between Malcolm Little and Jonah Dove
whos wife is being harassed by soldiers on a train. Malcolm
(insinuates in some ways to be a young Malcolm X (but not him as far as I know) intervenes and gets soldiers thrown off the train.
Chapters alternate between the character of Malcolm Little struggling to make it and enjoy life in the Harlem of the day and Jonah, a deeply self doubting lead
Jan 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are a fan of this genre (historical fiction, more specifically 40s NYC, Harlem) this is worth reading. But personally I didn't feel this was nearly as good as the first two in the trilogy. Part of the reason may be that the bar was set very high - Dreamland and Paradise Alley are both phenomenal.

I didn't find the stories nor the main characters of this book nearly as compelling. That said, if Kevin Baker wrote a fourth book in this series I wouldn't hesitate to read it.

If you are new to
Oct 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This historical novel is a fascinating read about Harlem and the people in it from the early 20th century to post WWII. A large part of the book is concerned with the different shades of skin of the African Americans and how they treated each other. One of the main characters is Malcolm Smith who later becomes Malcolm X. The other main character is a very light-skinned preacher - so light he is often mistaken for white. He wrestles with this and finally makes a decision. But the over-riding them ...more
Chris Johnson
More serious than the first two books of this trilogy, and not quite as fun a read, but like the previous two, an amazing recreation of the times they portray, In this case, it's Harlem in the 1940s. Some people have complained that a white guy wrote this book, but to me it's irrelevant. Baker knows the history, the vernacular, the man-on-the-street views and feelings of people of that time, and tells his story with detail and assurance. WHo cares if he's black or white, he's captured the times ...more
Aug 11, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The third in Baker's City of Fire trilogy, Striver's Row is an excellent finish to a great run of books. This one was set in Harlem in the 1940's. One thing that I didn't expect was that Baker brought some of the characters from the previous two novels into this one, albeit usually not in a very important way -- but it was enough to give the reader of all three books a sense of continuity and that the books were indeed a trilogy and not just randomly thrown together because they were set in diff ...more
Aug 11, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book probably deserves more than the two stars I am giving it, because Kevin Baker is a talented and driven author, but I just could not bring myself to finish it. Perhaps I picked it up at the wrong time in my reading life, and perhaps I would have finished it at a later date if it wasn't due back at the library. Who knows?
If you are into historical fiction, especially stories that take place in New York City in the 40's, you would probably be into this book.
Nov 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is the 3rd of a historical fiction trilogy writted by Kevin Baker--I will add the other 2 soon. They all take place in New York City. This particular one takes place in Harlem during the time of Malcolm X (coinciding wonderfully with our recent victory!). I am actually listening to this book on CD (which I LOVE-I can actually get things done AND 'read'). I highly recommend this one along with the others.
Oct 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent historical novel about Harlem, "passing" and being black in the first half of the century, although it must be said that the author is a white man and the true experience can only be guessed at. The protagonist is narrowly based on the man who would become known as Malcolm X. Excellent writing.
May 03, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't finish this audio book. The story of Malcolm X, before he was Malcolm X, was something I thought would be intriguing. I tired of the story and some of the details were frankly disturbing, so I chose to give it up. Perhaps an abridged version might have been better for me. It does provide important insight into terrible racial prejudice in the 1940s.
Oct 03, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Student interested in Harlem History
Rigorously historical account of the time-period.

Actual historical persons represented in an engaging plot.

However, I NEVER forgot while I was reading that the author was white. As a white author it is an audacious choice the write the story of Malcolm X's Harlem years but I could never filter that caveat out of my consciousness as I read the narrative.
Darin William
Mar 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The third of Baker's trilogy of novels about New York. This one tells the story of a Adam Clayton Powell character and of Malcom X. It's daring, and sometimes it feels like it looses it's focus. Anyone who loves The Autobiography of Malcom X ought to read this. All of his books are very well researched. A great read.
Jun 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a story of two black men in WWII Harlem, one a minister and the other a "hustler." The author did a tremendous amount of research to bring this era in Harlem to life. Although I did not read the first two books of this trilogy, this book stands on its own. Sometimes the book was tedious, but I'm glad I stuck with it.
Jun 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The riveting final installment in the acclaimed trilogy is set in Harlem during the summer of 1943. A chance encounter between Malcolm Little (later known as Malcolm X) and The Reverend Jonah Dove will change their lives, and eventually America itself.
Apr 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did not find this as good as Paradise Alley, a book I thought was fantastic, but I still found it interesting and well written. Kevin Baker seems to capture the Black American condition extremely well.
Vassilios Bayiokos
I could not connect with this book at all. Maybe I need an audio version of it because the use of slang seems forced. It also takes too many liberties with established real life characters that we know so much about. This just didn't happen for me.
Oct 05, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pop-fiction
This was a good one I thought. It's a story of WWII-era Harlem and uses a fictional version of a young Malcolm X and a black preacher who considers passing for white. I thought the characters were richly drawn, the story moved along and made me curious to read the other books by this author.
Jul 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
vivid fictional tale of malcolm little (later malcolm x) as a young con man/drug dealer in harlem in 40s. much is based on fact. well written, engaging tale, taught me a lot about culture of harlem in this time. also, is part 3 of trilogy about nyc, and now i want to read the rest.
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Written by a white author 1 5 Oct 03, 2007 01:30PM  
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Kevin Baker is the author of the New York, City of Fire trilogy: Dreamland, Paradise Alley, and Strivers Row. Most recently, he's been writing about politics for Harper's Magazine and the New York Observer.
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