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I Got Somebody in Staunton: Stories Hardcover – March 29, 2005


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New Adult Fiction by Rainbow Rowell
Acclaimed author Rainbow Rowell's latest book, Landline, offers a poignant, humorous look at relationships and marriage. Learn more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Amistad; First Edition edition (March 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060536659
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060536657
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #522,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lewis (In the Arms of Our Elders) crafts a thoughtful, appealing collection deeply concerned with the pride and pain of African-American heritage. The weight that troubled history brings to bear on the present is most powerfully recognized in the title story, in which a black man meets a white woman in a bar and agrees to drive her to Staunton, Va., where he's headed to care for his dying uncle. It's a fraught encounter haunted by the man's recollection of his uncle's stories about lynchings. "Rossonian Days," which follows a jazz band on its way to a gig in Denver, is a passionate, poetic riff on the evolution of jazz and its place in African-American culture. Lewis also explores more personal histories, as in the exquisite "Shades," in which a 14-year-old boy mingling with the crowd at a blues festival finally lays eyes on the father he has never met. "In a circle of loud men, all holding beer, all howling in laughter... stood a large man in a worn gray suit tugging his tie jokingly like a noose.... I looked at myself in the reflection of [his] mirrored lenses and thought, So this is me." Though Lewis's plots can be a bit thin and the basic footwork of getting around in a story can feel a little clumsy, the cumulative effect of these 10 pieces is unquestionably powerful.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Lewis offers 10 short stories that convey the complexity and variety of life in black America with an easy style and sharp character portraits. A single mother, abandoned by her husband 14 years before when he walked out without a word, encounters him at a blues festival. When she points him out to her adolescent son, the boy is confronted with his feelings and the fact that his father hardly notices him. The shifting earth of a swamp near a small town covers and uncovers buried objects and desires. A young black man, accompanied by a white woman, drives into a gas station where white men are loitering and recalls an uncle's stern warning about such situations. A couple is briefly reunited, and each remembers their intense sexual relationship, which couldn't hold the woman's wandering need for something more. Lewis ably captures the subtleties and shifting emotions of everyday life in small towns. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Pretty Brown Girl VINE VOICE on December 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I Got Somebody in Staunton is a collection of ten short stories by award winning author, William Henry Lewis, that tenderly embraces human condition. The stories depict honest, confused, and quite ordinary characters dealing with a myriad of situations, painful memories, and awkward circumstances in Black America. They are simply doing their best to find their way in the world they didn't create. I loved that the underlying themes carried in each story seemed to emulate a timeless and universal vibe.

A few of my favorite stories are:

Shades, where a young teenaged boy meets his father for the first time and questions his feelings for the man who abandoned him on the night of his conception. The man has direct discourse with the boy and fails to recognize his child, leaving the boy to deal with feelings of hate, resentment, and unconditional love.

In the title story, I Know Somebody in Staunton, a black man who has been schooled all his life by an elderly uncle about the beatings and lynchings surrounding black male/white female encounters decides to live dangerously and pick up a white woman hitchhiker in a bar on his way south to visit the ailing uncle. As they journey further south and encounter a group of angry, restless white men, the haunting refrains of his uncle's warnings weigh on him and seem to grow stronger as he progresses on his journey. This story is a history lesson as the author mentions infamous altercations involving Emmit Till, the Scottsboro Nine, James Byrd, and others.

More history, in the musical sense, is shared in Rossonian Days, where the author describes a jazz band's trip west to Denver to "make it big.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Clifford Garstang on April 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I liked every story in this collection, and truly admired several. My favorite was the title story, "I Got Somebody in Staunton," because it deviates from the book's dominant, narrow narrative view of race relations. The protagonist, who has valid reasons to be concerned about the environment he's in, learns that the reality of the situation was slightly different from what he'd perceived. A very powerful story is "Urban Renewal," about a bereaved mother who challenges a condescending college president to take a truly meaningful step to reach out to the poor, black community that is neighbor to his campus.

Fans of Edward P. Jones will like this collection very much.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Raven Miller on September 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Lewis takes the reader into the life of each protagonist and doesn't let go until the end of the book. The reader will feel as if they have entered the story looking over the shoulder of the characters. Book clubs should put this on their must read list. Oprah? Are you listening?
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By Susie D. Carr on March 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
William Henry Lewis has great style. All of the short stories in this collection were not great, but his style and ability to bring to life characters you can easily identify with makes it worth the read. Shades, In The Swamp, Urban Renewal, and Crusade were my favorite stories in this collection. He is masterfully creative. He makes you "feel" the charaters.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Barr on June 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
There's little doubt in my mind that Lewis is an exceptional talent, but his weakness is that he can't seem to escape some of the basic trappings of the growing "ghetto" literature movement. Absentee fathers, promiscuous teens, and oversexed men tend to dominate even his best stories. While there are no pimps or hos, these characters still feel too formulaic.

Of course, his best story is the title story. It is realistic, vivid, and doesn't rely on stereotypes to propel the story forward (or worse -- to hinge the plot on!). Other stories, such as "Kudzu," start off strong but soon lose their way, and Lewis relies almost exclusively on his descriptive abilities to plow through to the end. Unfortunately, most of the stories are like "Kudzu."

Writers are often told to "write what they know," and Lewis may be making candid observations of the world that he lives in or grew up in, but it has gotten to the point where African Americans need storytellers that can create a realistic world that doesn't exploit the stereotypical minority. Other authors, such as Nikki Giovanni or Toni Morrison, have walked the fine line of embracing realistic characters while giving them the depth to make them stand apart. Lewis isn't there yet, and that's what makes "Staunton" such a frustrating read. You wish that he were.
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