Perfect Peace A Novel

Daniel Black

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

352 Pages



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When the seventh child of the Peace family, named Perfect, turns eight, her mother Emma Jean tells her bewildered daughter about a desperate decision she made when the child was born: “You was born a boy. I made you a girl. But that ain’t what you was supposed to be. So, from now on, you gon’ be a boy. It’ll be a little strange at first, but you’ll get used to it, and this’ll be over after while.”

From this point forward, he sees his life through a bizarre kaleidoscope as it changes around him and within him. And the Peace family must question everything they thought they knew about gender, sexuality, unconditional love, and fulfillment.


Praise for Perfect Peace

“Daniel Black understands the racial psychology and culture of the South so well that he can show, not tell, and his characters’ actions always ring true. This novel is a powerful exploration of a small group of individuals who hold each other in high regard. The love among members of this family is severely challenged, but the challenge is triumphantly met. Each child grows to manhood and achieves success according to his gifts. Through their lives we experience disappointment and sorrow, but also fulfillment wand joy. Perfect Peace is an intense and satisfying read.”—Greg Iles, New York Times bestselling author of The Devil's Punchbowl

“Daniel Black writes of growing up in a small town with humor, grace and forgiveness.”—Adriana Trigiani, New York Times bestselling author of Very Valentine and the Big Stone Gap Series

Craft is not the word for this joyfully inscribed novel. The proper word is art. The book is a brave and complicated story perfectly told. Mr. Black offers a cultural gift to be welcomed.”—Houston A. Baker, Jr., author of American Book Award-winning Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals have abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era

"Perfect Peace is a morality tale of the consequences of letting our selfish needs trap the ones we love into roles they weren't born to play. The characters here are as flawed, their sins numerous, as any living human being held under the lens, but the author brings a compassion and understanding to their plights."—Mat Johnson, award-winning author of Incognegro, Drop, and Hunting in Harlem  

"Daniel Black has pried open the isolated lives of rural southerners, allowing us to peek inside. To understand the complexities of the southern experience, read Perfect Peace.”—Dr. Karyn Lacy, professor of Sociology, University of Michigan, author of Blue Chip Black: Race, Class, and Status in the New Black Middle Class

"Mr. Black’s novel nudges our sense of awareness and accountability.  His narrative eloquently poses difficult questions with disarming kindness:  ‘Do you know who you are?  Do you know what you do?  Do you know that there is never an excuse?’ The relevance of this work with regard to all we are and all we do far exceeds his adroitly simple telling of the tale."—Keith Hamilton Cobb, actor

“Part cautionary tale, part folk tale, part fable, Daniel Black's Perfect Peace is a complete triumph.  It bursts with emotions as intense as opera.  Perfect Peace will bring you to tears and laughter.  You will recognize characters from your own life, and perhaps even recognize yourself.  In Emma Jean Peace, a mid-20th-Century rural Southern black woman who wants a daughter so desperately that she raises her infant son as a girl, Dr. Black has created a character as complex, equivocal and unforgettable as Scarlett O'Hara.”—Larry Duplechan, author of Blackbird, Captain Swing, and the Lambda Literary Award-winning Got 'Til It's Gone

"[Black] offers a nuanced portrait of an insular community's capacity to absorb difference, and it's a cold reader who will be unmoved by his depictions. Original and earnest, informed both by human limitation and human potential."—Kirkus Reviews

"In his third novel, Black revisits the small Arkansas town of Swamp Creek, also the setting of They Tell Me of a Home. This is the heartbreaking tale of Perfect, the seventh child born to Gustavus and Emma-Jean Peace in 1941. What should be a joyous occasion is clouded by Gus's conflict over having another mouth to feed. And Emma-Jean has an overwhelming desire to have a girl after giving birth to six boys. Deciding to deceive her family and others, Emma-Jean makes the decision to raise Perfect, born a boy, as a girl for the first eight years of his life. When circumstances force her to reveal the truth, everyone involved has to grapple with the consequences. Black courageously delves into such sensitive issues such as sexuality, racism, and family dynamics and enchants readers with strong pacing and Southern imagery. Those who enjoy rich and complex works of literary fiction will be provoked to discuss this novel's many layers."—Lisa Jones, Birmingham Public Library, Alabama, Library Journal

"Black explores the fateful decision of Emma Jean Peace to raise her seventh son, Perfect, as the daughter she has always wanted. Her plan, nutty as it is, works out until Perfect is eight years old and his blind older brother, Bartimaeus, makes an innocent discovery about his sister's body. Soon after, Perfect's friends begin talk of womanhood, prompting Emma Jean to reveal to Perfect the truth. So begins an education for Perfect—rechristened Paul—on manhood while his small Arkansas town casts an unforgiving eye on its newest curiosity . . . A nuanced exploration of sexual identity and social structures."—Publishers Weekly

In the Press

PERFECT PEACE by Daniel Black | Kirkus Book Reviews
Read the Kirkus Review of PERFECT PEACE . The author returns to the Arkansas setting of <i>They Tell Me of a Home <i>(2005).

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Gus stood beside the living room window, waiting for the annual spring rains. They should have come by now, he noted, glancing at the battered Motley Funeral Home calendar hanging from a nail on the wall. It was May 17, 1940, and Gus’s wilted crops made him wonder if, somehow, he had angered Mother Nature. Usually the rains came between March and April, freeing him to hunt or fish the latter part of spring while cabbage, collard, and tomato sprouts strengthened in the moistened earth. That year, the stubborn rains prolonged the daily sojourn Gus and the boys took to the

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  • Daniel Black

  • Daniel Omotosho Black teaches at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia. He earned a Ph.D. in African American Studies from Temple University then returned to Clark Atlanta as a professor with hopes of inspiring young black minds to believe in themselves.

  • Daniel Black
    Daniel Black




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