Flicted by A.J. Kush

By The Book was eager to explore this month’s selection, “Flicted”, written by A.J. Kush. A graduate of Georgia Southern University. Kush is an artist, lyricist and motivational speaker who spends time teaching and mentoring youth in communities across Atlanta. His passion for history, family and music comes to life throughout the pages of his first full-length novel “Flicted (Afflicted)”.

“Flicted” is a refreshing coming of age story which follows 14-year-old Derrick “Dez” Allen as he navigates childhood friendships, colorism and sexuality while simultaneously discovering the magic of music during the Golden Era of Hiphop. “Flicted” reads like a music album of beautifully crafted words through the eyes of an inexperienced teen. 

A.J. tackles issues of racism and classism in Savanna Georgia, despite the town being majority African American. BTB liked that Kush did not linger on race as an impediment to the development of the main narrative. Rarely do we read stories about communities of color that bypass the flash of police “torture porn”, glorified violence and dysfunctional families while addressing their challenges.

A.J. brilliantly incorporates rap lyrics from Hiphop’s 90’s Golden Era to foreshadow the beginning of each chapter. (Example) – Chapter 2 titled, “Ain’t No Half Steppin”. “Brain Cells are lit. Ideas start to hit. Next the formation of words that fit. At the Table I sit. Makin it Legit. And when the pen hits the paper, ahh shit.”- Big Daddy Kane.

This inspired some of our book club members to lay the book down for a few minutes, play the actual song and take a trip down memory lane before continuing the read. Kush reminds us what it was like growing up with artists like Salt & Pepper, Scarface and 2 Live Crew all competing for space in our psyche.

Terms like “Flicted”, short for conflicted or afflicted, are introduced to show what A.J. describes as being “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair…” -2 Corinthians 4:8.

A.J. Kush’s writing style is authentic, cohesive and flows seamlessly. The storyline is masterfully imagined with relatable subplots that keeps the reader engaged. Wittiness and humor are balanced with serious situations that the characters are forced to address while learning valuable life lessons along the way.

A few areas where Kush could have spent more time was flushing out the relationship between Dez’s Mom and Stepdad. Dez’s mother was essential to his understanding of love and relationships yet, many of the subplots concerning her and his Stepdad were half told or unresolved. There was also a missed opportunity to provide robust development of other key characters such as “Dez’s” big brother and troubled cousin Marcus from the rougher side of town in Liberty City. 

“Flicted’s” ending seemed abrupt and could have benefited from a few extra pages to explain how it came to its final conclusion. Perhaps it is a good thing for A.J.’s next offering that we were left desiring a bit more. 

BTB rates Flicted with 4 PAGES. We believe this book should exist in every library and can help inspire youth around reading as they may see themselves in a familiar, yet foreign setting.


The Symbol Of Our Mission And Logo

TThere is a saying in West Africa that the elders are living libraries. This is a sentiment that is shared among civilizations all across the world and has been honored, even in death, among the Senegalese.

Senegal in particular has a sacred tradition of oral storytelling by traveling poets, historians and musicians.These storytellers are called “Griots” or “Jeli” and they possess knowledge of family lineages, act as advisors to royal families and are tasked with leading praise songs. They served as living history books, preserving ancient stories and traditions through song. 

Senegal is also one of the few places on earth where the sacred Baobab tree grows and is often referred to as the “Tree of Life”.  The Baobab provides populations with a source of water and food, shelter, clothing and medicine. 

The trunk of this special tree is where Griots were buried in death. Senegalese believed that to bury the Griots underground would be as though history itself was being buried alive. Boabobs that still contain bones are rare. People came from all around the world to utilize the bones of these masters of knowledge and keepers of history in their own practices.

Descendants of these ancestral sages began to place the bones in secret places. In 1962, the Senegalese President Leopold Sedar Senghor banned the burial of Griots in Baobabs because of health risks associated with the decomposition of bodies, as well as being a political gesture to French influences that frowned upon the practice.  

The Baobab tree became a living mausoleum for the remains of famed local Griots and is now represented in our logo as a symbol of our By The Book mission to preserve the knowledge, wisdom, guidance, wittiness and fanciful storytelling found in books that we treasure. 

The O’s in our logo are homage to Opon Ifa, which is a divination board used in West African cultures to tell or read stories that have a permanent effect on one’s life. Similar to the affect one may have after reading a really good book. The colored version of our logo contains color tones commonly found on various West African fabrics, further connecting the two traditions in a meaningful way. 

As we begin publishing book reviews and releasing interviews with authors, we would love for you to join us in our journey to promote the power of literature and the discovery of worlds we may have never known.

You can directly contribute to our mission by reading/sharing our book reviews and interviews and engaging with us in meaningful dialogue via our IG @ByTheBookClub. And feel free to contact us directly at:

Thanks for your support,

By The Book: Book Club, 

“For Those Who Treasure Words.”


For Those Who Treasure Words

By The Book (Book Club) serves the Writer/ Author and Self Publishing community by reading, giving detailed analysis and promoting the ideas of unique thinkers.

Our members are made up of leaders in Community, Arts and Professional spaces dedicated to uncovering the treasures of words.

We host and post reviews, Blogs, interviews and analysis, connected to all our reads.

We want people who love books as we do to have a special gathering place to discover, discuss and share unique stories.

By The Book begins a new book each month.

• After the Read, our members discuss:
-How clear the author conveyed the story
-The impact of the story on us as readers
-The relevance the book has to its intended audience
-The Quality of Character Development

• Our members also provide notes to the author (Praises, Suggestions, Questions & personal thoughts).

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By The Book (Book Club) has a 1 through 5 PAGE rating system.

Our ratings help the prospective reader and author see how their offering is interpreted by a collective of readers.