From Whence We Come
by Maurice W. Dorsey

"Seymour was conflicted with Estelle. On one hand, she was the most generous person he knew; and on the other hand, she appeared unloving."

Seymour Rose is born to a strong and loving father, Albrecht, and a proud and confident mother, Estelle, in the final years of segregation. Estelle, forced into motherhood at a young age following her mother’s death, imposes her father’s strict upbringing and morals onto her own family. Albrecht is a calm balance to the headstrong Estelle as they manage their somewhat dysfunctional family. Their oldest son, Aries, is rebellious with bouts of violence, and daughter, Claudia, excels in school while welcoming the onset of womanhood. Seymour, the third child, is unlucky as he is the one who Estelle “never wanted to have.”

Physical and sexual abuse is inflicted upon Seymour amid discrimination and strict Catholic indoctrinations coupled with his displays of “effeminate behaviors” and coming to terms with his sexuality. As he longs for acceptance from his emotionally distant mother, he grapples with the emergence of his identity against the odds in his young life to find eventual independence, success, and love in his adulthood.

Dorsey’s novel centers on the Rose family but largely belongs to Estelle and, ultimately, Seymour. It is a coming-of-age novel, and within it Dorsey parallels Estelle’s and Seymour’s character arcs, tracing each of their internal conflicts and emotional developments across decades. It feels autobiographical, and it is admittedly based on a true story that has been fictionalized. This is Dorsey’s first foray into fiction writing, having previously written a business book, and there is a noticeable lack of dialogue. In addition, more is focused on Claudia and Aries where it perhaps could otherwise be spent devoted to Seymour’s storyline. Despite this, Dorsey has written a touching novel with mature themes of family, relationships, identity, and social and cultural mores. It is an honest and realistic chronicle of a young gay and black man’s life, joys, and pain.

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