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Mojo: Conjure Stories Paperback – April 1, 2003
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a diverse collection in that it traverses time to provide stories from the slave ships, the antebellum South, the Jim Crow era, the 1960's and even present day. Some stories are rooted in folklore, e.g. Andy Duncan's "Daddy Mention and the Monday Skull", while others address moral and societal issues such as incest, revenge, love, lust, and greed. One of my favorites is Barbara Hambly's "The Horsemen and The Morning Star" in which plantation slaves garner strength and call upon their ancestor's gods to ride their weary backs to fight the master's resurrection of the devil to save one of their own. Jarla Tangh's "The Skinned" references the recent Rowandan tragedy and delivers a powerful message against the backdrop of the modern American inner city. Another noteworthy mention is Jenise Aminoff's "Fate" in which a mother with the gift of sight tries desperately to alter her son's destiny and pays a high price in the end.
This reviewer found some stories a bit more challenging to follow than others, but believes there is enough variety in subject matter and writing style to satisfy even the most critical reader. This book covered multiple dimensions of conjuring: from using black magic to control spirits, outwitting the tricksters, initiating curses, belief in shape-shifting to the making and manipulation of zombies. It was an engaging and interesting read about a mystical and magical heritage. One can surely gain hours of reading pleasure with this book.
From the Plateye, mischievous ghost who roam the earth changing shape and identity for deadly self-serving purposes, to the mysterious Udu pots that preserve, and don't forget Uncle Monday who steals souls...or Anansi, a trickster god disguised as an eight legged, wrinkled face spider, these conjured anomalies float through the pages of Mojo to form exquisite stories of characters performing self-serving magic. This anthology mixes modern fantasy with magic folklore and voodoo curses, the result being eerie and mysterious tales that spread your imagination and prickle the back of your neck.
Hopkins assembled an impressive reticulation of great writers. Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, Barbara Hambly, and Marcia Douglas are just a few of the talented contributors. Barth Anderson's "Lark Till Dawn Princess" was the most intriguing to me. It was more mystery than mojo, and told of singing & performances in the alternative drag queen world. You'll love the point of view. Gregory Frost's "The Prowl" was among the cleverest because it is an explosive snatch of black history spun on vengeance. Denise Aminoff had the most daring and disturbing story. It reminded me of an early episode of the X-files.
If you enjoy the unknown, the far-reaching, and don't mind stretching beyond the familiar parameters of belief, you'll enjoy these conjure stories.
Reviewed by KaTrina Love (MissLove)
The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers