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They Tell Me of a Home: A Novel (Tommy Lee Tyson) Paperback – November 28, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
In Black's thoughtful debut about return to and reconciliation with one's roots, Tommy Lee "T.L." Tyson comes home to rural Swamp Creek, Ark., after a 10-year absence. Having fled a life of manual labor and an unloving family for academia, T.L., now with a Ph.D. in black studies, returns seeking "familial clarity" after years of silence. Even stronger than his need to come to terms with his estranged family—including his tyrannical father, Cleatis; remote mother, Marion; and older brother, Willie James—is his desire to reconnect with his adored younger "Sister," Cynthia Jane. But he arrives home to find Sister dead and buried in the backyard, and no one will tell him how she died. Sister's death isn't the only family secret T.L. will unravel: he also visits his beloved, ailing teacher and mentor, Carolyn Swinton. They're reunited just before she dies, and upon her passing he discovers that he is her biological son. T.L. also finally breaks Willie James's silence and learns the shocking story of Sister's death. Though T.L.'s intellectual sermonizing about identity and overcoming self-hatred brings a self-conscious layer to the novel, Black elevates his promising debut with an ear for dialogue and a specific sense of Southern place.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Thomas Lee Tyson returns to Swamp Creek, Arkansas, after a 10-year absence. T. L. left as an emotionally abused adolescent off to get a college degree but returns as a self-assured, newly minted Ph.D. on the verge of a career as a professor of African American history. After 10 years of no communication with his family, he expects to renew his deep love for his younger sister and perhaps rescue her from the stultifying atmosphere of the small town. But he learns that his beloved sister died mysteriously some years earlier and is buried in the backyard. His tortured reunion with his emotionally distant father, mother, and brother is complicated by the need to discover how and why his sister died and the key to his own identity. T. L. discovers a community not as ignorant and backward as he had remembered but one whose racial heritage and storytelling traditions were appreciated and celebrated. And at the local "Meetin' Tree," he discovers a sense of home and identity he has not found elsewhere. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
After meeting Daniel Black at the Detroit Main Library and listening to him tell of his childhood, I grew more and more interested in his work. In short his reading at the library was awesome. He made you feel as if you were there with him. When I picked this book up I couldn't put it down. The story was well written, it kept my attention and at times it stirred up a lot of emotions. The author constantly provided twist to keep my eyes glued to the pages. This was a great read and I would highly recommend this book. I look forward to reading another novel from Dr. Daniel Black.
Another bone of contention I have with this book is that many of the characters speak more like oracles than like real people. The author seems too concerned with making a point about the African American human condition than he does about simply allowing the story to unfold. The result is a heavy-handedness that I found off-putting throughout the book. Moreover, the protagonist is the least wise of all the characters in the book. Everybody seems to have more insight than he. TL, on the other hand, does a lot of screaming, gawking, gasping, crying, and carrying on than is necessary. As a result, he ended up being one of the least likeable characters in the book.
Despite my critique of this book, Black did engage me in the characters of Swamp Creek to make me want to know more about them. I will, therefore, read his sequel with the hope that he has matured as a writer by then and can allow a story to tell itself without the use of over-explanation, tying up all loose ends, and not trusting that the readers to do some of the work.