Free Burning by Bayo Ojikutu
A Novel

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Tommie Simms was supposed to be the community hope, the young man from the neighborhood who made good. He attended a state university, married a respectable woman, and landed a position at a white-collar insurance firm. Watching over Chicago from the thirty-third floor of his company’s downtown high rise, Tommie ignores the gnawing sense that he doesn’t belong on this path—and that in a blink of an eye, he could stray from its given destination. And then he does . . .

Soon Tommie is laid off, and he begins to see himself as just another faceless entity on the city’s fringes. After each fruitless job interview, Tommie’s wife withdraws from him further, and in the mirror he faces
the reflection of failure his family never intended for him. Stymied by rejection and mounting debt, Tommie is seduced into peddling dope as his best opportunity to define himself and to provide for those he loves.

But a corporate job is no preparation for hustling, and when Tommie finds himself on the wrong side of a crooked cop, everyone wants a piece of him: his street-hustling cousins, the police, friends, loan sharks, even
a panderer from his white-collar past. In order to break free, Tommie must find a way to dig himself out of a deepening hole, before the city buries him.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About Bayo Ojikutu

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BAYO OJIKUTU is the author of 47th Street Black, winner of the Washington Prize for Fiction and the Great American Book Contest. He currently teaches in the department of English at DePaul University. Ojikutu was born and raised in Chicago, where he still lives.
Published May 13, 2010 by Crown. 383 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Free Burning

Kirkus Reviews

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The author’s voice is especially riveting when discussing loss and Tommie’s “mother who left me pinned to the window glass, watching trains and folks running in vain and waiting for some sign to point out love’s return.” Gritty, lyrical, intense.

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Publishers Weekly

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He begins selling marijuana for his cousin Remi and, after his arrest by a corrupt white cop named Weidmann, Tommie arranges a meeting between Remi and Weidmann, who wants in on Remi's action.

Oct 02 2006 | Read Full Review of Free Burning: A Novel

Entertainment Weekly

''Play like they do on The Wire,'' spits the experienced buyer as a drug deal goes down in Bayo Ojikutu's new novel, Free Burning.

Sep 29 2006 | Read Full Review of Free Burning: A Novel

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