On “Razorblade Tears” by SA Cosby



ON THE SURFACE, SA Cosby’s Razor blade tears is a detective story about channeling grief for revenge. However, just below there is a lot more. For starters, it’s a timely tale of accepting otherness, accepting difference, recognizing that love is love, and the devastating effects not doing these things can have on families. . Plus, it’s a story that takes the experience of black people in the South and places it in a rural context, which most contemporary detective stories have failed to do. Cosby, a black man born and raised to a family of limited means in Southeast Virginia, knows exactly how to bring authenticity to the page. If these elements are enough to make this novel an exceptional reading, Razor blade tears is more than the sum of its parts. This is detective fiction filled with everything fans expect from the genre, but the way Cosby writes about emotion is more aligned with literary fiction. Razor blade tears develops in a social commentary that is not moralizing.

Ike Randolph used to be known as Riot on the streets, but now he’s a long way from this life. He has been an exemplary citizen for 15 years and owns a landscaping business. Yet the ink on the back of his hand constantly reminds him of his gangbanging past, the things he did and the years he spent in prison. When a cop knocks on the door, Ike hears it, but it’s Riot who reacts with fear. Instead of legal issues, what Ike gets from this coup is much worse: the news that her son Isiah has been brutally murdered, along with Isiah’s white husband, Derek. While Ike and Isiah rarely spoke to each other and Ike was irritated by his son’s sexuality, death shatters him.

Meanwhile, Buddy Lee Jenkins, Derek’s father, goes through the same experience. A divorced alcoholic with a criminal record and serious health problems living in a dilapidated trailer, Buddy Lee was also far from a loving and accepting father to Derek. Although they come from different worlds, the pain of their loss brings Ike and Buddy Lee closer together, and they begin to investigate the murder of their sons. What they discover leads them down a path of righteous violence and revenge as they come to terms with who they were as fathers and accept that everything they thought and said to their sons was wrong.

In Razor blade tears, grief, guilt, and revenge are the driving energies that propel the narrative and its characters forward at all times. In fact, the guilt is so present that it ends up becoming a character in the novel, a silent, all-pervading force that fuels Ike and Buddy Lee as they unflinchingly confront a growing number of menacing individuals who want to keep them from finding out. who shot their sons. . But guilt does more than motivate the fathers’ quest for revenge. Ike and Buddy Lee are forced to fight the fact that they can’t make amends because their children – the children they loved but didn’t love like they wanted to be loved and deserved to be loved – don’t are no longer alive. Isiah and Derek are ghosts who haunt their fathers in silence. Their absence is a constant reminder that their broken relationship was all Ike and Buddy Lee’s fault, and that saying you’re sorry once someone’s gone isn’t at all satisfying and doesn’t fix. not the moments you wasted nor give you a chance to have the relationships you never wanted to build.

Cosby has a deep understanding of homophobia and deals with it brilliantly here. When the tale begins, Ike and Buddy Lee talk about their sons but refuse to call them gay, gay, or members of the LGBTQ + community. Instead, they describe them as “different”, “this way” and “like this”. As the story progresses and they come to terms with the fact that their sons were amazing, successful men who loved each other, they also begin to understand that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being gay. , and it starts to make them react violently every time. they meet someone who shows a bit of homophobia that they have been throwing up on their sons for years. And yes, they are painfully aware of the irony of it.

While the way Cosby deals with generational and cultural differences in understanding and accepting the LGBTQ + community is brilliant and timely, it doesn’t stop there. Ike is black and Buddy Lee is a white man from a racist family, and as they fight together to avenge their sons, they learn from each other. For example, Buddy Lee says a lot of things that could be interpreted as racist, but he doesn’t think of himself as racist. For Buddy Lee, “When you grow up with people – your aunts and uncles, your grandparents, your siblings, your friends – all say things that you don’t even think you’re right or right, you don’t put that title on yourself. The two fathers discuss the differences in the way they live, see life and are treated by cops, for example, and as they are exposed to other perspectives, they grow up and change some of their views, proving that age is not a barrier when it comes to growth and acceptance.

The black experience centers on Razor blade tears, but he shares the limelight with the LGBTQ + experience and even the poor white experience. Buddy Lee is an interesting and nuanced character who shows that white privilege is not the same for all white people. While some of the supporting characters live in big houses, Buddy Lee doesn’t. In a way, he embodies class resentment, and he talks about it as – if not more – aggressively than he talks about anything else. Here are his thoughts after the detective investigating his son’s murder told him he understood his pain:

White-hot rage blazed in his chest like a shattered hurricane lamp. That fucking cop in his crisp white shirt and pleated pants with a crease neat enough to slice bread wanted to talk to him about the loss? That pretty boy who didn’t seem to know what hard times were if they came and spit in his face? That BCBG-looking son of a bitch who probably never missed a Christmas with his family and played touch football every Thanksgiving like a fucking Kennedy? That guy who had good bourgeois sex with his wife every other Friday night? Who has never had to tell their spoiled daughter of a girl that he didn’t have enough money for the baby doll she wanted?

Razor blade tears is a book which, like Cosby’s previous novel, Blacktop Wasteland, takes a look at race and parenthood while delivering a fast-paced thriller with plenty of violence. It is also a tale that cements Cosby as one of the most honest and consistent chroniclers of the black experience in the rural South.


Gabino Iglesias is the author of Coyote songs and Zero Saints.



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