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The heartbreaking portrait of a large rural southern family’s attempt to grapple with their mother’s desperate decision to make her newborn son into the daughter she will never have     When the seventh child of the Peace family named Perfect turns eight her mother Emma Jean tells her bewildered daughter “You was born a boy I made you a girl But that ain’t what you was supposed to be So from now on you gon’ be a boy It’ll be a little strange at first but you’ll get used to it and this’ll be over after while”      From this point forward his life becomes a bizarre kaleidoscope of events Meanwhile the Peace family is forced to uestion everything they thought they knew about gender sexuality unconditional love and fulfillment

10 thoughts on “Perfect Peace

  1. says:

    is this the best book i have ever read?nois this the best book i have ever read about a child raised as the gender their parents wanted them to be instead of what their genitals wanted them to be?nobut it is still very very goodthis is another book where he is not a fantastic writer but he is a good storyteller there were moments when i kind of wanted to compress scenes or cross out redundancies but it never prevented me from getting caught up in the storyi was first drawn to this book because of the cover in real life it is so glossy and eerily airbrushed and that creepy doll i thought it was going to be a novel with a horror twist to it but it's not it is just a deeply sad novel about a woman whose childhood was so troubled and whose relationship with her own mother so emotionally and physically abusive that all she wants out of her adult life is a baby girl to treat the way she wishes she had been treated special cherished loved pampered but son after son keeps coming out of her body when the seventh one is born she decides to just raise it as a girl and be done with it it works for 8 years and perfect is given privileges and special treatment within the family on account of her being a girl and constantly told how beautiful and special she is and she helps emma jean put her own past unhappiness to rest when it becomes clear that this secret cannot be kept indefinitely emma jean has to come out and tell the truth to perfect her husband her sons and the town at largemany lives are destroyed by this revelation perfect now paul is regarded as a freak by his peers and whispered about by adults wherever he goes his brothers and father try to make a man of him despite their jealousy of his preferential treatment to this point and paul himself has to endure it all eight years old and utterly confusedin a black community in 1940's era arkansas there really isn't a lot of tolerance for a sissy boy who walks like a girl and cries and does not take well to farm work having been told how special and beautiful he was his whole life now he is just another boy in a house full of boys and his self worth is utterly destroyed and then it gets much worse for himthis is a book about the expectations of masculinity love and vengeance family and sacrifice and respect i thought the family story was beautiful i can't say enough about these characters paul is really the least interesting character his brothers especially king solomon bartimaeus and mister are so heartbreaking each in their own way and emma jean well you can imagine what a complex character she must be you kind of want to hate her for what she so selfishly did but you also can't help sympathizing a little eva mae and sugar baby win award for excellence in supporting casti feel like this is a scattered book report but this is what came out of me today i could dress it up in yellow ribbons and call it beautiful and special but i have learned my lesson from this book this is all i have today the book is much better than my review of it and you should read it ta daaaaacome to my blog

  2. says:

    This is a very unusual and original story A woman in the deepest and poorest Black south has had enough of having sons and raises one of them as a girl until she is forced to tell him and everyone else that her eight year old daughter is in fact her son What else is good is that this is finely drawn portrait of the woman seen directly and through others' eyes There is a really interesting cast of characters and when I say 'cast' I am thinking not just of the book but also a potential film this story would look fantastic on the big screenWhat is not so good about the book is that the author cannot make up his mind which character to concentrate on so you never get a full picture of anyone and there is always you want to know Since the intention of the book is to stand alone and not to be a series which would be uite possible it's a 45 star book rounded upThe author writes really well It's uite a joy to read descriptive writing that never becomes 'lyrical' or 'poetic' but remains the vehicle of the story but yet describes a world and a place just recently gone byNotes on reading the book view spoiler I thought this would be a good airplane book I flew down to Miami today but its a lot deeper than that It's by an African American professor who writes really well This book isn't political at least not so far but it is showing the different experiences of blackswhites in the US dramatically different from the West Indies and that to me is an extra dimension in what so far is book all about the characters I love well written books where the characters are people you can think of outside the story hide spoiler

  3. says:

    Recently my favorite cousin pulled my ear about a novel she was thinking about reading Because I trust her opinion about these types of things I was immediately interested and when she gave me a synopsis of the story I was sold The novel was 'Perfect Peace' by Daniel Black I googled the author and guess what? It and turns out I'd read one of his previous booksThey Tell Me of a Home and I hated it I decided not to let that discourage me though I mean I was very enthusiastic about the subject matter so I figured it had to be good Boy was I wrongSo If you are interested in actually reading this book you should probably stop reading now because I fear that in my detail about why this novel just doesn't work I may inadvertently give away some of the story I would hate to spoil anything for youLet's start by discussing what this story is about 'Perfect Peace' is a set in the 1940's in a rural black community and explores what happens when a boy is raised as a girl then abruptly told the truth When the novel opens we find the matriarch in the middle of giving birth to her seventh child that she is sure will finally be a girl Of course she is wrong and she has another boy All of a sudden this woman has the bright idea of making her boy a girl and this is where things start to fall apart This should have been a terribly interesting story due to the subject matter and in capable hands it could have been Unfortunately Mr Black was ill euipped to do this story justiceThere were a few problems I had with this novel but one of the biggest problems is the hypothesis that Mr Black sets up as you read When I finally finished one thing I took from this book is that if you allow a child to 'act like a girl' they will become gay and I don't feel comfortable with this idea at all I want to first of all say that I do not believe that there is any kind of formula that can be put togetheror avoided that will make a child attracted to the same sex For every person in the world that is same sex attracted there is also a life full of experiences that has brought them to that point I believe everyone is different so there is no one way that people get anywhere I feel Mr Black's idea that a person's sexuality can be socialized does not take into account the biology of a person We are supposed to believe that just because his mother told him that he was a girl his biology followed suite If this were true then I would argue that I should not be gay I was socialized as a boy but I never had any sexual feelings toward girls Again I am not saying that my life experience is the way it is for everyone but I do believe that Mr Black has failed to recognize the biology of sex in his telling of this storyAnother issue I have with this novel is that Mr Black is just not a very good story teller His writing is all over the place and I really feel like he tried to stuff a few different stories in this one novel The story of Perfect was enough to carry this whole book and all the other fluff just made the story too convoluted and difficult to follow I think the biggest violation of this for me would be the story of Mister I assume that Mr Black introduced the romance between Mister and Johnny Ray in order to show another point of view in regards to sexuality but again it was just not handled appropriately After all is said and done I just felt like the story was never fully fleshed out and ultimately just another distraction from the real story This continues to happen throughout this novel which left me very frustratedAll in all I have to say this book was awful And I mean no disrespect to Mr Black The fact that he's actually published in an accomplishment in itself and something he should be proud of but I cannot look past the issues I find with this work If anything I blame his editor or or those of us who read this and did not call him on these issues I think it's our duty to continue to push artist to raise the bar and call them to task when they don't So here is my push to Mr Daniel Black

  4. says:

    I GIVE THIS NOVEL TEN STARSImagine being a mother of six boys when all you have ever hoped for in life was to give birth to a daughter? When you were young you played with your dolls pretending that you were caring for that daughter you hoped would grow up to love you You prayed that your little girl would grow to adore you in a way your own mother and sisters never did simply because your skin was too dark That is the heart breaking story of Emma Jean Peace the young matriarch of this rapidly growing African American family living in a rural Arkansas town during the mid twentieth century Emma Jean Peace had been abused neglected and reviled by her mother and sisters because of her ebony hued skin and African features She was the youngest of three girls but never received the pretty dresses the dolls or her mother's love because her mother believed that all of that would be wasted on a such a dark and ugly thang So Emma survived that abuse only living for the possibility that one day she would have a beautiful little girl that would provide her with the bond she could never experience with the women in her life But after six sons Emma is sure that her latest pregnancy will yield the daughter she had waited so long and so patiently for She longed for her daughter so much that she tricks her husband into getting her pregnant a final time even when he adamantly opposes bringing another child into their struggling family So when Emma discovers that her precious daughter turns out to be a beautiful little boy she decides that since God had not sent her a daughter she would create one God heps dose who hep demselves Emma declares to the midwife whom she blackmails into keeping her secret As a result little Perfect Peace in born into the Peace familyFor eight years the little girl is doted upon not only by Emma but by her daddy and her six hulking older brothers who are so thrilled to have a little sister to fawn over The men learn to go without food so that little Perfect could have pretty ribbons and dresses and dolls And they don't mind the stings of jealousy so much because they adore their little sisterBut as that Biblical saying goes what is kept in the dark will come into the light A series of events take place such as Perfect's blind older brother Bartameus accidently feeling something perculiar about his sister's anatomy one day as they are playing in the field Then Emma realizes that Perfect begins to show the beginning stages of physically developing into a boy all the while asking uestions about when she will begin her menses and get married to have babies Emma begins to see the flaws in her plans Fearful of hurting her precious baby any further she sits her down and explains that at eight Perfect must no longer act like a girl but must become the boy she was supposed to be After confessing the truth to her family of men who are appalled Perfect who is rechristened as Paul is suddenly thrust into the role of being the family's youngest son and he will become that son if it is the last thing the father does Suddenly Paul must face his father's brother's and the town's judgement upon his every action He is heckled even by those who are supposed to be adults He is ostracized because the town believes he is going to grow up to be a sissy His father and brother don't know how to treat their sonbrother so they don't treat Paul as anything at all Now Paul once the princess of the family becomes nothing than an outcastHot potato Can you imagine? That's all I am going to share about the plot because who is going to read it if I share it all?The author Daniel Black does a stu pen dous job depicting the racial and gender based psychological issues that are prevalent specifically with African Americans in the south This novel challenges what the rural African American community believes about religion sexuality gender identity child abuse racial pride and self love We experience the sorrow the passions and the healing of each character as we read the story that spans across each of their lifetimes It was a heart wrenching beautifully written novel that left me crying and wishing that someone would turn this beautiful novel into a movie I have stopped writing reviews for a while because it was so time consuming but I could not neglect to speak on such as satisfying work I only wish Goodreads allows us to give 10 stars to a novel

  5. says:

    It was not simply that Emma Jean Peace desperately wanted a daughter after giving her husband six sons She wanted to shower on a daughter all the love pampering consideration and care she did not receive as the dark skinned child of a woman who heaped unimaginable pain and suffering upon a child whose only sin was to be born black literally Adolescent Emma Jean suffered indignities not dissimilar from those suffered by Celie in “The Color Purple” only her Mister was her mother a title cruelly unearned So when grown Emma Jean cuts off all ties with her mother marries a not so bad poor country laborer named Gus who cries when the heavens do and gives him six sons she is sure that seven is the charm But alas with the help of midwife Henrietta Emma Jean gives birth to another son Undaunted she decides right then and there to pass her new son off as her daughter and uses blackmail to bind the midwife’s complicity Emma Jean names her faux daughter PerfectSet in the rural cruel but hauntingly evocative American south of the early 1940’s this remarkable and totally credible tale of gender identity dogged determination family sexuality and unconditional love envelopes one into the complicated world of the Peace familyThe six young Peace boys—James Earl Woody Bartmaeus Sol Mister and Authorly—are awed by their beautiful new sister and are both respectful and protective of her “I’ll be glad when she’s old enough to play with us” Sol muses with wonder “She ain’t gon’ play with us fool” the bright and knowledge seeking Authorly says “She’s a girl and girls is real delicate They not tough like boys so they have to play with other girls”For eight years the lie lives flawlessly The modesty of the times never allowed Gus and his six sons to ever see Perfect naked Diapers were changed and the child was bathed and dressed by mother Emma Jean only Even Perfect with no knowledge of anatomy grows up completely unaware that the little appendage dangling between herhis legs is male genitaliaAnd in every other sense and sensibility Perfect lives up to her name She is uite simply a beautiful child and Emma Jean sacrifices much of the family resources to make sure she is dressed in the finest the family’s little money can buy parading the child before church and community with a pride that borders on haughtinessIt is when the truth is discovered that all hell breaks loose And though Emma Jean is rightly blamed for the deceit it is heartbreaking to witness the community condemnation heaped upon the innocent child renamed Paul who must now suddenly be a boy in the fish bowl of an unforgiving society Even Paul’s father Gus normally a decent guy resorts to horrendous cruelties when trying to make his former daughter now growing young son be something he has no clue of beingThe great saving grace of this very moving story is the combined humanity of Paul’s six brothers Each brother is so distinctively defined with delicate brush strokes of caring emotion heart and compassion that much of Paul’s survival and emotional growth is dependent upon them who in some ways still protect their little brother with the same fierceness applied when he was their little sisterThe full story of Perfect Peace is so rich and complicated that there is little space here to chronicle its remarkable trajectory Suffice it to say that this is one helluva read and one of epic proportion Mr Black’s story telling skills and prose are nearly as good as Toni Morrison’s I am one of his newest fans And this great and powerful book will haunt me for many years to come

  6. says:

    This is moving A story of a heartbreaking cycle of abuse and the destruction left in its wake I am truly floored and humbled by this story Everyone has their burden to bare but what happens when you put it on an innocent child? This story chronicles the lives of the Peace family and all they overcome or accept in order to live That's it nothing extraordinary just to live This was a fantastic read this should be reuired reading for high school students and college alike There are lessons to be learned and forgiveness to find

  7. says:

    Wow my first five star book of the year and so well deserved I only wished this book would have been longer to tell in the entirety the rich saga of the Peace family mom and dad Emma Jean and Gus and thier six uniue and interesting sonsThe book begins with an impatient Emma Jean and a regretful Gus awaiting the birth of their seventh child which despite the mouths to feed is desperately wanted by Emma Jean as a way to provide the love and attention she never got from her heartless colorstruck mother in her traumatic and emotionally abusive childhoodAfter a hard labor where she births a healthy and beautiful son Emma Jean is heartbroken and desperately schemes to get the daughter she always wanted by raising her beautiful son as a girlI found this premise so interesting and horrifying I literally read with my mouth open however the book was far from over as the baby girl is named of all things Perfect Peace and raised as a little lady with ribbons bows and all that until her eighth birthday when Emma Jean cant live her own lie any and breaks it to Perfect that she is a boy and will now live like one In one day Perfect becomes Paul and his world is rocked your heart breaks for him and the family as a whole as they deal with this betrayal from their matriachI loved everything from the character description the scenery the pscychological and social issues and my only complaint is that it could have been longerLoved this though it was uncomfortable and sadHighly recommended

  8. says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book It did not disappoint It had a slow start but that didn't last long and I uickly was engrossed in the story This book made me mad happy sad and sympathetic I felt deeply for PerfectPaul and the confusion he was forced to endure and figure out I felt like Eva Mae was a critical person in his life and without her he Paul wouldn't have had insight into malefemale relationships It warmed my heart that Caroline found love despite her size and hurt that caused her to eat so Each brother was uniue in their own way and had their special purpose in life and was determined to fulfill it I'm glad Paul had so many male figures in his life to help him on his journey as best they could It was sad that Emma Jean was such a sad and determined person that she felt the need to get what she wanted even though it wasn't intended for her and as a result she caused so much hurt and pain to someone she loved so much and really couldn't do anything to protect or help after it was all said and done aside from offering her genuine apologies The fact that she knew it couldn't last forever should have been enough for her to not go through with it at all but she wanted what she wanted and paid the price in the end I am glad I finally got a chance to read this book and I highly recommend it to anyone who would like to read a heartfelt story about gender family growing into oneself and learning to forgive and live out your purpose despite the obstacles that are bound to get in the way

  9. says:

    This book broke my heart From the moment the first sentence began until the last sentence ended my heart felt as if it were folding in on itself Bouncing back and forth between a callandresponse type pattern with flashes forward into the future and tumbles into the past this is an emotionally charged narrative that will leave you wondering why?Emma Jean’s desire for a daughter was born of her own need to feel loved wanted and needed an overall theme in this book which is why I think the characters in this book are so relatable But it’s not just the emotional physical and psychological damage that is done to Perfect that begs to be examined it’s the damage that was been done to Emma Jean in her past that made me pity her No member of the Peace family remains unscathed by this tragedy and Black does a wonderful job of exploring the hurt and rage that the revelation of the truth provokesThis novel made me uestion everything that I associate with gender and sexuality what does it mean to be a girl or to be a boy? Can one’s gender be changed by nature or nurture?What I liked most was that Black didn’t wrap the book up with a pretty little bow at the end the characters are given some measure of healing but deep down you know that they’ll continue to pay the price for Emma Jean’s deceptions for the rest of their lives

  10. says:

    Unusual concept skillfully executed