The coming of age story of Mark Palmer, a black, gay, Jamaican where “Boom bye bye inna batty bwoy head” (meaning, gunshot to gay men) has replaced the island’s motto “Out of many one people.” The son of an overbearing neglectful mother, he is thrust in an environment that requires a thick skin from torments and socio-economic disparities. Suppressing his “gay tendencies” to detract being bashed or murdered, he migrates to America and breaks free from the closet to a world where he is marginalized. As his life spirals from bad choices, he clings to desperate measures and finds hope.
"With vivid prose and journalistic detail, BATTY BWOY tells the courageous and often times heartbreaking story of a young black gay man coming to terms with his sexual identity in Jamaica and searching for himself, acceptance and love in America."
Emil Wilbekin, former Editor-in-Chief of VIBE magazine
"Max-Arthur Mantle's BATTY BWOY offers an engaging look at same sex desire from a Jamaican lens within an American context, which thankfully doesn't rely on stereotypes. His characters are fleshy, rough and rendered with complexity and profundity. Perhaps more than anything, BATTY BWOY pulls back the curtains on the terrors associated with pursuing self and desire. BATTY BWOY is a significant, yet haunting contribution to American letters. Quite a feat for a first-time novelist."
Steven G. Fullwood, editor of Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam's Call
"BATTY BWOY is destined to take a place beside B-Boy Blues and Invisible Life as a seminal black gay novel. A coming of age novel written with flavor and audacity, BATTY BWOY ushers readers into an environment where the fluidity of identity - sexual, racial, national - propels its main character through his many adventures."
Jarrett Neal, author of What Color is Your Hoodie? : Essays on Black Gay Identity
"Truth-telling, even with the aid of poetic license, is cathartic, and healing. BATTY BWOY captures and unleashes much of the pentup raw complexity associated with growing up gay in Jamaica, and in the Diaspora. There were many touching and familiar portraits of friends, as well as my own life-experiences, that made me consume the passionate telling of Mark's story. I rejoiced with his growing self-awareness, and groaned at the seemingly inevitable mishaps from an unshepherded sexual awakening."
Maurice Tomlinson, Jamaican-born Canadian LGBTI activist and attorney
"BATTY BWOY is more than a bildungsroman about a black gay man dealing with the harsh realities of life in Jamaica and America. We meet a resilient, clever, and oftentimes hopeful male protagonist despite a young life filled with many hardships and struggles. He is an indomitable figure who seeks to create a third space for himself, free from the societal, cultural, economic, and racial stigmas that constrain him. An eye-opening debut novel."
Sean Frederick Forbes, director of the Creative Writing Program at UCONN
"BATTY BWOY is a brilliant and bold debut novel from Max-Arthur Mantle about the evolution of an awkward and impressionable boy into a decidedly fierce and unapologetically gay black man. Mantle keenly illustrates the suffocating prejudiced mores of a country confined in its conventionally held beliefs. He breathes life into characters that are humorous, sad, intriguing, and interestingly familiar. We are at once drawn into the life and experiences; pain and joy; struggles and triumphs of the protagonist from his home in Jamaica to his exploits in America. The author has successfully constructed a piece of literature that is socially significant, politically poignant and all the while entertaining."
Dr. Safiya D. Hoskins, contributor, Harvard University's African American National Biography, edited by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Reviewed in the United States on May 22, 2022
This book captures the true essence of what it is still like living in Jamaica and coming to terms with your sexuality. A great read, adventure and I am happy that Mark was finally happy.
Reviewed in the United States on January 29, 2019
I highly recommend Max-Arthur Mantle's novel "Batty Bwoy" because he is dealing with the deep-seated and layered of queer men to wear colonial personas in order to survive. Morrison's Pecola wore a colonial persona that prayed to God for blue eyes in order to survive and Mantle's Mark does the same. Like Pecola and like so many of us, Mark attracted people who treated him the way he thought about himself, which was poorly. Both the tourist and Daniel ignored Mark publicly or ridiculed him. And the wealthy Sebastian thought he could buy Mark. This novel is a cautionary tale about the dangers about not loving one's self and one's sexuality before getting to know anyone else. I had to write this after seeing "Black Girl" directed by Ossie Davis and written by J.e. Franklin. Franklin's Billie Jean is Mantle's Mark. -RF.
Portia de Moncur
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read...
Reviewed in the United States on April 30, 2015
When I first received this book for review, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. I have to admit the title had me a little reluctant because when I see the word “batty” I think of it as the slang for “crazy”, as in “the lady’s gone completely batty”. Instead, batty bwoy (and other variations), I found out with a quick bit of research, is a Jamaican phrase for gay, bisexual or simply an effeminate man. At this point I was now intrigued.
Batty Bwoy is the first book published by Max-Arthur Mantle and is an interesting and riveting read. The writing style is more like a memoir rather than a traditional third person narrative but it was still engaging. The best way I can describe it is that the story links up a number of events in the life of a character making a very cohesive and pleasing narrative. It follows the life of the main character Mark.
Literally, from conception where we are introduced to his parents’ way back in 1969 a couple years (I think) before Mark was even born. The moment that Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give you Up’ is mentioned, for those familiar, not only will you instantly get the song in your head (and now you have it in your head too! Ha!) But you will also know that we are towards the end of the eighties by now. But as soon as I made that realization, we were going through the nineties too.
This is culturally very interesting as well. Mark, the ‘batty bwoy’ of the title, was born in Jamaica – lived in Jamaica too – though it gets rather complicated when I start thinking of his home life. Being that the author is Jamaican, who am I to argue with his reflection of Jamaican society. I also like how Jamaican characters spoke “in Jamaican”, for lack of a better word. I, for someone whose only knowledge of Jamaica is from some reggae and watching the movie Cool Runnings as a child, this was a learning experience.
This is an interesting and gritty read; this is basically a quick tour of gay rights, etc. through the eyes of one person. Really, all I can say that this is a story about a life, a man who just happens to be Jamaican and gay, and it’s a real interesting life that has been woven for him.
I particularly like the ending; it gives hope without giving too much away. It’s interesting to see how Mark as a character has changed through the years of self-discovery from a child to ending up as a 29-year-old man who hasn’t quite finished growing up. But as I said, there is always hope.
EXCERPT (COMING SOON)