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No Ashes in the Fire
Cover of No Ashes in the Fire
No Ashes in the Fire
Coming of Age Black and Free in America
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From a leading journalist and activist comes a brave, beautifully wrought memoir.


When Darnell Moore was fourteen, three boys from his neighborhood tried to set him on fire. They cornered him while he was walking home from school, harassed him because they thought he was gay, and poured a jug of gasoline on him. He escaped, but just barely. It wasn't the last time he would face death.


Three decades later, Moore is an award-winning writer, a leading Black Lives Matter activist, and an advocate for justice and liberation. In No Ashes in the Fire, he shares the journey taken by that scared, bullied teenager who not only survived, but found his calling. Moore's transcendence over the myriad forces of repression that faced him is a testament to the grace and care of the people who loved him, and to his hometown, Camden, NJ, scarred and ignored but brimming with life. Moore reminds us that liberation is possible if we commit ourselves to fighting for it, and if we dream and create futures where those who survive on society's edges can thrive.


No Ashes in the Fire is a story of beauty and hope-and an honest reckoning with family, with place, and with what it means to be free.

From a leading journalist and activist comes a brave, beautifully wrought memoir.


When Darnell Moore was fourteen, three boys from his neighborhood tried to set him on fire. They cornered him while he was walking home from school, harassed him because they thought he was gay, and poured a jug of gasoline on him. He escaped, but just barely. It wasn't the last time he would face death.


Three decades later, Moore is an award-winning writer, a leading Black Lives Matter activist, and an advocate for justice and liberation. In No Ashes in the Fire, he shares the journey taken by that scared, bullied teenager who not only survived, but found his calling. Moore's transcendence over the myriad forces of repression that faced him is a testament to the grace and care of the people who loved him, and to his hometown, Camden, NJ, scarred and ignored but brimming with life. Moore reminds us that liberation is possible if we commit ourselves to fighting for it, and if we dream and create futures where those who survive on society's edges can thrive.


No Ashes in the Fire is a story of beauty and hope-and an honest reckoning with family, with place, and with what it means to be free.

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About the Author-
  • Darnell L. Moore is the head of Strategy and Programs at BreakthroughUS. He is also a columnist at LogoTV.com and NewNowNext.com, and a former editor at large at CASSIUS and senior editor at Mic, where he hosted their widely viewed digital series The Movement. He writings have been published in Ebony, Advocate, Vice, Guardian and MSNBC. Moore is a writer-in-residence at the Center of African American Religion, Sexual Politics, and Social Justice at Columbia University, has taught at NYU, Rutgers, Fordham, and Vassar, and was trained at Princeton Theological Seminary. In 2016, he was named one of The Root 100, and in 2015 he was named one of Ebony magazine's Power 100 and Planned Parenthood's 99 Dream Keepers. He divides his time between Brooklyn and Atlanta.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from February 12, 2018
    Moore, an editor-at-large at the content distributor Urban One and a columnist at Logo, describes his bold and candid memoir as “snapshots of my life,” molded by forces of “brutality, poverty, and self-hatred.” During the 1980s, he is one of a family of 11 in a three-bedroom home in Camden, N.J.; he shares memories of barbecues, dance contests, hip-hop music, and dark family secrets. One grim secret is his abusive father, a regular resident of jails in the 1970s and ’80s, who routinely abused his wife. Moore’s most eye-opening event occurred when neighborhood boys yelled gay slurs at the 14-year-old Moore and tried to set him on fire before an aunt came to the rescue. At age 19, Moore suffered a near-fatal heart attack, which quickened his resolve to succeed at Seton Hall University even while dealing with the stigma of being gay. Moore offers insightful comments on racism and sexual identity throughout (“The consequences of black queer desire seemed more lethal than poetic. And I did everything in my power to resist becoming what I sensed society hated”); eventually, he moved past self-hatred to a firm commitment to service and activism as a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement. Moore’s well-crafted book is a stunning tribute to affirmation, forgiveness, and healing—and serves as an invigorating emotional tonic.

  • Kirkus

    April 1, 2018
    Affecting memoir that looks back on surviving a hardscrabble childhood and learning to thrive as a queer black man.Journalist Moore casts his debut as an open-hearted exploration of faith, fluid sexuality, and the myriad challenges of being a black American when advancement seems elusive as ever. His parents were teenagers, so he grew up among a loving, fractious extended family: "Too many people, which meant there was too much love and there were too many arguments." The author writes powerfully about his home city of Camden, New Jersey, during an era of crack and decline following the white flight of the 1970s. "To claim love for a city so denigrated by the US media," he writes, "is to contradict every idea Camden residents have been socialized to accept." As a child in this rough environment, Moore was perceived as different, making him a target of neighborhood bullies, culminating in a horrific scene where they attempted to burn him alive: "The feeling of embarrassment was as overpowering as the bitter smell of the gas that emanated from my body." As a teenager, Moore tried to present a front of masculinity while gravitating toward his few courageously out gay classmates as friends. "Queerness is magic for those brave enough to make use of it," he writes, "but it can feel poisonous for those who have yet to give in to its power." The author drove himself toward academic achievement, understanding the odds against him. At Seton Hall University, despite exploring both hedonistic hookups and a deepening religious faith, he still felt unsettled as to his identity until he began teaching, later becoming involved in youth programs and activism and finally coming out to his mother. "Her acceptance was more healing than any prayer," he writes. Moore writes deftly in passages that purposefully meander to present a broad, socially engaged tableau of his experiences, though some of his observations can be repetitive.An engaging meditation on identity and creativity within challenging settings.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    May 1, 2018

    Journalist Moore opens this courageous yet emotional debut memoir by sharing sacred recollections about his beloved family; he reflects on dance battles, barbecues, and family secrets. An honest and brave storyteller, Moore weaves a narrative reminiscent of Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me, offering details about his relationship with an abusive father and his feelings of helplessness after finding out that his great-grandmother Elpernia lost her home. An insightful portrayal of inner-city Camden, NJ, during the 1970s and 1980s is evident throughout this coming-of-age story, in which readers are able to follow the author's journey, from being harassed by neighborhood boys to enduring a stroke at age 19 and coming to terms with his sexuality. After overcoming many obstacles, Moore later focused on becoming a champion for social justice and organizing the Black Lives Matter movement. VERDICT Moore's commentary on racism, sexual orientation, and inequality makes this a must-read for our current social climate. Memoir and biography fans will eagerly consume this complex and varied account.--Cassandra Ifie, Itawamba Community Coll., Tupelo, MS

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • AudioFile Magazine With a style that evokes James Baldwin, activist Darnell Moore explores his life, religion, and society, attempting to reconcile the internalized agitation of black identity with the cultural fear of people of color that is widely on display in America. He is deliberate, both in his prose and his delivery. His soft, deep voice pulls listeners into this beautiful and engaging memoir about a black man coming to terms with his place in a racist society, his sexuality, his relationship with God, and his ability to impact that world. His voice conveys so much emotion without being emotional as he shares memories of kids almost burning him alive as a child, a shattering childhood Christmas, and his attempted suicide. The result is an audiobook that will strike a nerve with listeners. L.E. � AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine
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No Ashes in the Fire
Coming of Age Black and Free in America
Darnell L Moore
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