From Publishers Weekly
In 16 related short stories, Asim (The N Word
) illustrates the connections between African-American characters living in a Midwestern town in the tumultuous late '60s. The focus is on the Jones family: young precious Crispus; ladies' man Schomburg; budding radical and intellectual Ed; adoring and protective mother, Pristine, and warm, strong father, Reuben. In the opening narrative, I'd Rather Go Blind, Crispus describes his community as he sees it—grown men with colorful nicknames, his adolescent brothers changing before his eyes, and an emerging Black Nationalist fervor rising in his neighborhood. Crispus is particularly fond of Curly, a friendly, blind store owner who is killed by a corrupt white cop when Curly tries to protect Ed from a brutal beating. Moonshiner Octavius Givens and his best friend Leo Madison defend Leo's mother after she's assaulted by the white man whose family employs most of the blacks in town, and must fight to their deaths or run. Asim successfully delves into politics, domestic violence, racial identity, young love, and more in this humorous and poignant collection, although often the characters feel too rich for the format. (Mar.)
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In 1967 in the fictional midwestern town of Gateway City, the tight-knit black community is grappling with changes large and small against the backdrop of boiling resentment of racial injustice and police brutality. Nine-year-old Crispus Jones is fair-skinned at a time when black is beautiful, the blacker the better. And with nappy hair in a family of wavy heads, he feels like the ugly duckling. Older brother Ed is just beginning to chafe under racial restrictions, while Schomburg, handsome and athletic, is self-absorbed. Their father, Reuben, is a lover of black history and a sign painter with the soul of an artist. Their mother, Pristine, keeper of family memories, is comforted by the church in her worries about her sons. The neighborhood gangster supports the church, while a blind man who sold candy and protected children from bullies is killed in a police altercation. This collection of short stories, some first-person perspectives, interweaves the lives of various characters, skillfully rendered, in a textured portrait of life in an urban community. --Vanessa Bush