[Welcome to the EL Book Introductions series. These posts are all short (<180 words) introductions/reviews of books in the EL library. They focus on telling you what we think will be interesting for you, a college student and English learner, so use them to help you find the right book for you. You can also use the tags to find books about topics you might be interested in.]
20 years ago, Xaviar Mayne killed a man in the mixed martial arts (MMA) ring. Today, the dead man’s son, James Bellyi, is getting ready for his own championship match. What do these two men have in common? They are both shunned by the MMA community and even their families because they are gay. Now, they are forced to work together to train for the final fight.
The story is about prejudice and bigotry. The reactions to Bellyi’s sexuality may seem unbelievable to you, but even in 2020, when this book was written, there were very few openly gay MMA fighters (for examples, see: Being gay in MMA – This MMA Life. UFC & MMA Lifestyle and Community). Bellyi’s mother bans him from her home, and Bellyi himself says that his father would have killed him for being gay. On the other hand, Mayne’s relationship with his husband is a positive example of a loving family, even though they are haunted by the ghosts of Mayne’s past.
My two cents: We often think of prejudice as a very abstract thing affecting “weak” people. This book helps us see how even the most masculine and physically strong people can suffer from it.