1973. Joey Montaperto's first day of high school, in a New Jersey suburb so painfully white it makes "My Three Sons" look exotic.
Things are about
Forced integration delivers two busloads of inner city kids to Roselle High, sending a collective shiver through the all-white student body. Jaws drop when "one by one, they pour out. Giants. Imposing black giants—and those were the girls. Then the boys swagger off the bus—or should I say grown men—howling, sneering, jive-talking and slapping palms." Nothing would ever be the same.
It isn’t long before the racial conflict becomes personal. After NaNa, a brutal, yet artistic loner, saves him from a hallway ambush, their unlikely friendship turns 15-year-old Joey on to the cool world of black culture. Fascinated by the music of Etta James, Marvin Gaye, and the Funkadelics, Joey embraces the happenin' scene. Soon he’s pimped out in purple Swedish knits (that were never worn in Sweden), Isaac Hayes glasses, and a sizzling Puerto Rican hairdresser on his arm. Esperanza. She completes his makeover with a mod shag afro.
Joey becomes obsessed with her. He whips himself into shape, boxing at a ghetto gym, and washes dishes at an Italian restaurant so he can afford to take her out. He even breaks into school with Na-Na to paint a larger-than-life mural of Esperanza. Only to discover that she already has a boyfriend--a dealer who’s getting her hooked on heroin. Reeling from heartbreak, Joey searches for meaning in his life, finding inspiration in The Autobiography of Malcolm X. His parents think he's gone mad. Especially when he refuses his mother's homemade Italian sausage, announcing, "It’s hard to be a good Muslim in this house." Joey freaks out his entire Catholic family — and the Mafia guys at work — as he finds his "soul".
Filled with heart and wisdom, The Edge of Whiteness is an autobiographical account of one adolescent’s struggle to discover his identity. This timeless coming-of-age story is a humorous social commentary on the funky 1970's that's remarkably relevant today.