In the early 1970s, César Alvarez enlists in the navy to escape a life of crime; while the decision saves him from the streets, it also lands him amid volatile racial tensions at a crucial moment in US history.
"Skillfully blending his fictional hero's coming-of-age story with a real-life racial confrontation aboard ship, Carter's tale is a winning combination of military procedural, suspense, and Black history."
—Booklist, STARRED Review
"Taking its title from a nautical term for a conundrum, the novel is a coming-of-age and redemption story about two young Black men going through boot camp, training school and their first assignments in an early 1970s Navy struggling with racism and sexism."
The Vietnam War is raging, the US Navy has only recently begun the process of integration, and the country is reeling from racial turmoil and unrest. So why does César, a street-tough kid of Afro-Cuban descent, enlist in the navy? He is on the run from a life of crime and from Mr. Mike, a charismatic, sociopathic gangster who was once a mentor but has now turned on him.
Escaping into a navy wrestling with its history of racism and sexism, César soon sees the absurdity of certain prejudices that seem as old as the US Armed Forces. When he is deployed aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, racial tensions are high and are moving quickly toward violence. Through it all, César's ever-growing sense of honor and self-worth force him to make moral decisions he never knew he was capable of. It's a fortitude he will desperately need.