It is the 1990s and Dave, son of Harvard educated hippies, is one of only a few white kids in his Boston middle school.  Having a difficult time connecting with the other students, he becomes drawn to Marlon, a black kid from the projects who seems to have similar interests: video games, the Boston Celtics and getting into the better high school.  They become friendly but both are ashamed of their home lives and there is always a distance between them even as they become closer.  Still, they spend hours watching vintage basketball games and have conversations about lots of subjects.

I felt compassion for both Dave, as he struggled to fit in, got pushed around on the bus, wanted cool, new sneakers and begged his parents to put him in private school, and for Marlon, son of a single mother with mental illness who lived in the projects with so many hurdles leading to a better life. These boys are cerebral, observant and  intellectually curious, and though they are still young, we witness their coming of age as they come to terms with who they are and what they want for the future.  Their unlikely friendship is faced with many challenges stemming from prejudices based on color, race and religion, as they search to find their individual identity.

Sam Graham-Felsen addresses race and privilege, the vast differences in what is attainable, and the difficulties that are inherent based on background and various family circumstances in Green.  His use of neighborhood language was both entertaining to read and at times difficult to comprehend but lent to the authenticity of the boys, their relationship, the neighborhood and the environment. I enjoyed this debut novel, based on the author’s life growing up white in a mostly black and Latino middle school, and I look forward to meeting Sam Graham-Felsen this month in an upcoming event at the Westport Library. 



Born and raised in Boston, Sam Graham-Felsen worked as chief blogger for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and a journalist for The Nation. Green is his first novel.