In the summer of 2001, my family and I moved into the Prospect-Lefferts Garden neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. I was 25. My partner was 24. Our son was 11 months. Prospect-Lefferts Garden is a lovely neighborhood marked by quiet streets and some of the most beautiful architecture in the city. There are several blocks lined with perfectly preserved limestones and brownstones. There is a strong sense of community. Block parties are a tradition. And for those of us who fear the suburbs, Flatbush Avenue hums at the neighborhood’s border. When we moved into the neighborhood, it was predominantly black. A haircut was a two-minute walk away. Great jerk chicken was everywhere. My best friend from college lived on the same block. On Friday evenings you could find us out on his stoop with Jack and Coke in hand (which we drank back then), watching the world go by.
I didn’t make much money back then. I spent much of my creative energies, in that first year, freelancing for The Washington Monthly at 10 cents a word. If I earned $5,000 that year, I would be surprised. Whatever steadiness there was in the house came from my partner, who seemed to not share my uncanny talent for getting fired. In all things, she was a rock and if I have prospered since then, if I have become anything more as a writer and as a man, it is mostly to her credit. Back then, I was certain that it was time to get a real job. No, she would say. You need to write. The upshot of her support is neither vague nor symbolic. One of those articles I freelanced was an attempt to understand the killing of my friend, Prince Jones. Fourteen years later, that article blossomed into Between the World and Me.