56 pages 1 hour read

Claude Brown

Manchild in the Promised Land

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 1965

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Chapters 1-3Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 1 Summary

Content Warning: This guide and source material contain references to anti-Black violence/slurs, antisemitism, anti-gay bias, sexual assault, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol use.

Claude Brown—also known as Sonny or Sonny Boy—the novel’s 13-year-old narrator and protagonist, has just been shot in the stomach while attempting to steal some bed sheets from a clothesline. He runs into a fish-and-chips shop along with his friend Turk, and his mother soon arrives, screaming hysterically. Turk wants to know if Claude is going to tell the police he was there, and Claude thinks to himself that he will. An ambulance arrives and takes Claude and his parents to Harlem Hospital. Claude learns that his friends have offered to donate blood, but the hospital will not accept blood from people who use narcotics. Over the next several days, many people come to visit him as he recovers.

On the fourth day, a man identifying himself as a nurse wakes Claude in the early hours of the morning and sexually assaults him. His friends Dunny and Tito visit the next day, and they joke about the assault. A woman named Mrs. Ganey visits and tells Claude that, fed up with frequent robberies, she had put out new bed sheets as bait and waited at her window with a shotgun to catch the thieves.