Rickey L. Jasper’s Walking in the Gray: How to Succeed When the Rules Are Not Black and White aims to offer a fresh take on how to deal with one of life’s greatest challenges: navigating areas that are “neither black or white, where the rules are unclear, unwritten, or altogether unknown,” as the author writes on the back cover.
Jasper is a retired senior intelligence agency executive and 2014 Arkansas Black Hall of Fame inductee. His book is comprised of four main sections: “Where Do I Go from Here?”; “Who Am I? Self-Awareness”; What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do” and “How Will They Know?” The author uses Scriptures and, occasionally, personal and historical anecdotes to guide us through the “unknown.”
Jasper offers advice that, if well-worn, is also indisputable. For example, he notes that “Blaming someone will not change anything” and that “you must be true to yourself.”
Regrettably, though, the narrative suffers from several issues. Personal anecdotes and colorful moments are rare and much-needed, given the material’s density. The author also excessively repeats himself, bogging down the text.
The writing is largely dry and preachy, and Jasper has a habit of overusing groups of words and phrases separated by commas, which greatly impede the flow; for example, “The road we travel is at times straight, narrow, wide, bumpy, hilly, curvy, slippery, wet, or smooth. On our way to Arkansas, we may encounter detours, accidents, speed traps, speed bumps, traffic jams, weather changes, police, speed changes or other challenges.”
Thankfully, the prose relaxes a bit as the chapters progress. And when Jasper does offer concrete examples— the boss who scolded him for what he wore, the mom who expected more from him than his teachers did—his writing excels.
Readers will find useful thoughts among the dense prose here. Still, too often the book feels like a laborious lecture. More anecdotes would greatly improve this offering.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.