As an educator, Murphy has seen firsthand “the beauty, and ugliness, of life,” particularly in the experiences of his Black students. He recalls one pupil who was caught smoking marijuana at school. After seeing the anguish on the student’s face when his mother warned him about “ending up like his father,” the author decided to write this book. Murphy wanted to recount his own struggles to overcome the pain of growing up with an absentee father and grappling with his racial identity in America. This story focuses on an average Black youngster growing up in 1970s Detroit whose unassuming life included a stern mother with an acerbic tongue (a “vulgar Shakespeare”) and an extended family known by an assortment of nicknames. While many chapters explore the morose urban life of the ’70s, including learning the “rules of survival” and earning “Hood credibility,” some of the book’s strongest moments address the innocence of childhood.