n contemporary American fiction there are very few examples of novels that have portrayed the realities of black inner-city life with honesty, empathy, and storytelling skills. Into that near-vacuum steps Marcus Burke and his first novel, "Team Seven"--a literarily accomplished, autobiographically tinged coming-of-age family drama with an undeniably authentic feel for place, language, and character.
As Andre Battel, a native of Milton, a town south of Boston, ages from age eight through his teenage years, he grows away from his Jamaican family, discovers genuine prowess on the basketball court, and eventually falls into dealing drugs for the local street gang, Team Seven. But when Andre and his crew fall behind on payments, dire and violent consequences await. The story is told primarily through Andre's voice, but we also see the point of view of his mother, Ruby, a hardworking medical secretary; his older sister, Nina; his mostly-not-there and typically drunk-and-high father, Eddy, a halfhearted reggae musician; and Reggie and Smoke, the kingpin of competing drug crews.
What emerges is a rich portrait of a black family, a black community, and one young man poised between youthful innocence and ambiguous experience.