Many Americans know "mojo" is Southern slang for powerful magic. But few Americans know the word originated in West Africa and referred to a small cloth bag containing protective magicks. The origin of mojo is as obscure to Americans as the religious, spiritual, and magical beliefs of Africa, which are far less familiar than the religions and myths of Europe and Asia. Acclaimed author/editor Nalo Hopkinson addresses this imbalance with her anthology Mojo: Conjure Stories
, which collects 19 original stories of magic and gods and mortals, set in locales that range from a pre-Civil War plantation to modern Oakland, from Nineteenth-Century England to underground New York City.
Contributors range from big names like Steven Barnes, Neil Gaiman, and Barbara Hambly to exciting new authors (however, editor Hopkinson unfortunately does not contribute a story). The anthology avoids such inaccurate, offensive Hollywood stereotypes as the pin-stuck "voodoo doll," and the overall quality is very high, with a few weak tales offset by the far more numerous excellent stories. Among the best works are Sheree Renee Thomas's poetic myth "How Sukie Cross De Big Wata"; Marcia Douglas's lyrical "Notes from a Writer's Book of Cures and Spells," the best story about the writing process since Jaime Hernandez's "How to Kill A" (Love & Rockets); and "The Tawny Bitch," Nisi Shawl's classically gothic tale of a wealthy, quadroon British heiress held captive by a greedy, lustful relative.
The anthology opens with a brief but informative editor's note from Nalo Hopkinson and an evocative introduction by Luisah Teish, priestess of the Ifa/Orisha tradition and author of several books, including the spiritual classic Jambalaya: The Natural Woman's Book of Personal Charms and Practical Rituals. --Cynthia Ward
From Publishers Weekly
The 19 stories in this all-original anthology, edited by the author of Skin Folk, skillfully blend West African magic, fantasy and horror, along with plain old-fashioned readability. Some deal with familiar aspects of that magic in unfamiliar ways, such as the zombies of Steven Barnes's "Heartspace" and Neil Gaiman's "Bitter Grounds." Others explore social issues, like Tananarive Due's disturbing "Trial Day," which highlights injustice against African-Americans during the 1920s. "The Prowl" (Gregory Frost), "The Horsemen and the Morning Star" (Barbara Hambly) and "How Sukie Cross de Big Wata" (Sheree Renée Thomas) offer grim views of slavery days. Marcia Douglas's somewhat tongue-in-cheek "Notes from a Writer's Book of Cures and Spells" amuses more than it unsettles. A.M. Dellamonica applies magic to food in "Cooking Creole," while Barth Anderson's "Lark till Dawn, Princess" takes place on the drag queen circuit with an assist from a magical Elvis impersonator. Since some authors develop their themes or handle dialect better than others, the mojo level varies from story to story. Luisah Teish (Jambalaya: The Natural Woman's Book of Personal Charms and Practical Rituals) provides an introduction.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.