MOSAIC

l i t e r a r y m a g a z i n e

Summer 1999

$4.00

colin channer grace edwards

the crisis

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elizabeth nunez
the big banana
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the prisoner’ wife s books to read this summer ralph ellison

mosaicnliterary0 2 s u m m e r 1 9 9 9 magazine co tents/02.
ms. private eye |
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These black female crime-fighters are breathing new life into the murder mystery genre. We interviewed two of the hottest crime noire novelist today.

Grace Edwards by Nikki Terry Eleanor Taylor Bland by Nichole Shields

the crisis reader |

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An in-depth look at a collection of articles from The NAACP’s Crisis Magazine by Trent Fitzgerald

island voices |

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We look at four talented writers who are bringing their Caribbean homeland to the shores of America.

Colin Channer Waiting In Vain by Stacey Warren Poet Stacyann Chin by Duval Elizabeth Nunez Beyond the Limbo Silence by Renee Michel Loida Maritza Perez Geographies of Home by Tracy Grant

summer reading | new voices |
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Here are 25 books you should try to read this summer.

R.M. Johnson author of The Harris Men by India Savage Anderson

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the regular
excerpts
No Time To Die by Grace Edwards | 10 The Harris Men by R.M. Johnson | 53

MOSAIC
LITERARY MAGAZINE

JACQUELINE JACOB PUBLISHER TAURA OTTEY CIRCULATION DIRECTOR RON KAVANAUGH EDITOR IN CHIEF MICHAELYN ELDER MANAGING EDITOR DEATRA HAIME REVIEWS EDITOR LYNNE d. JOHNSON LITERATURE EDITOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR CYNTHIA RAY CONTRIBUTING EDITORS WILLIAM BANKS JENNIFER HUNT RONE SHAVERS
ADVERTISING INFORMATION For information regarding advertising please contact Jacqueline Jacob (757) 886-0468 / fax (757) 886-0983 email: jackie@mosaicbooks.com Write: MOSAIC LITERARY MAGAZINE 500 Dartmoor Drive / Suite 203 Newport News, VA 23608 SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION One-year subscription (four issues): $12.00. Two-year subscription (eight issues): $22.00 To subscribe visit: www.enews.com or send your check or money order, along with your complete mailing address to: MOSAIC LITERARY MAGAZINE 314 W 231st St. / Suite 470 Bronx, NY 10463 EDITORIAL QUERIES, LETTERS & QUESTIONS All correspondence should be sent to: MOSAIC LITERARY MAGAZINE 314 W 231st St. / Suite 470 Bronx NY 10463 email: magazine@mosaicbooks.com fax (603) 761-8150 Please do not send unsolicited fiction, nonfiction, poetry, short stories or any other form of material for reprint in Mosaic. It will not be considered or returned. Printed in the USA. w w w. m o s a i c b o o k s . c o m

inkorporated | 14

Writing & Publishing News by Pat Houser

short story | 18
The River by A. Yamina Collins

The Myth of Solitude: No Writer Is An Island by Kalamu ya Salaam

hieroglyphics | 34

bestsellers list | 36 children’s corner | 38 sneak peek | 42
5 books of poetry

profile | 43

The Harlem Writers Guild by Nikki Terry

the write advice | 44
Writing Groups by Leah Mullen

poetry

Rent Party by Rosetta Treece | 48 Virtual Mortality by Gerren Lyles | 50 Cinderella Ain’t Been Here by C. Candice Rigdon | 59

by Troy Johnson

crossword puzzle | 57 celebrating our voices | 70

Claude Mckay by Leah Mullen

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the reviews |

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The Big Banana by Roberto Quesada Buxton Spice by Oonya Kempadoo Clifford's Blues by John A. Williams The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah Go Gator and Muddy the Water by Zora Neale Hurston The Harris Men by R.M. Johnson Hidden In Plain View by Blair S. Walker I Left My Back Door Open by April Sinclair Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison Listen Up! Spoken Word Poetry by Zoe Anglesey Listening for God by Renita J. Weems Plain Talk and Common Sense from the Black Avenger by Ken Hamblin The Prisoner's Wife by asha bandele When Chickenheads Come Home To Roost by Joan Morgan

From the cover of Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison A Random House Book

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little brown river, cross my heart

Q. Do I need a degree in writing to have my work published in Mosaic? A. No. Mosaic prides itself on publishing both first-time writers and poets. Just send an inquiry to: Mosaic Magazine, 314 W 231st St. Suite 470, Bronx, NY 10463 or visit: www.mosaicbooks.com for more details Q. How can I get my local bookstore to carry Mosaic? A. Have the bookstore contact Ingram Periodicals. Tel# 1-800-627-6247 or Fax# 1-800-792-6471. Email magorder.sales@ingramperiodicals.com
Duncan Schiedt Collection

Q. Does Mosaic Magazine have a website? A. Yes. Mosaic Magazine is part of the highly acclaimed website Mosaicbooks.com which has been listed by both Essence and Black Enterprise as one of their favorite sites on the web. We have also had write-ups in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Black Issues Book Review and many other publications Q. I love a particular article. How do I get in contact with the writer? A. The quickest way is to visit our website at www.mosaicbooks.com/maginfo.htm. We list complete bio’s and email information. If you do not have email, write us at the address above.

Q&A
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contributors
India Savage Anderson is a writer who resides in Chicago, Illinois. Tara Betts’ poetry has been published in Dialogue, Rhapsody in Black, and Power Lines: A Decade of Poetry from Chicago’s Guild Complex. DebB is a photographer and photo editor living in Brooklyn. (Photo credit: “Pussy willow” pg. 48) Duval is a closet writer living in and loving Brooklyn, NY. Trent Fitzgerald is a New Jersey-based freelance music writer and former music editor of Beat Down magazine. In his spare time, he pens liner notes for reissues and is writing a screenplay on the life of a famous jazz artist. Robert Fleming is the author of several books including The Wisdom of the Elders. He lives in NYC. Tracy Grant is the author of Hellified, which will be released this fall from Visão Press. His articles appear Today’s Black Woman, BET Weekend and XXL. Deatra Haime is a freelance writer living in New York City. She is currently writing a book about kids of color. Donna Hill is a writer with sixteen published novels to her credit. Ms. Hill lives in Brooklyn, NY with her family and works fulltime as Public Relations Specialist for the Queens Public Library. Pat Houser is a writer from Brooklyn, New York Lynne d. Johnson is the literature editor of Mosaic and the music editor of Vertigo. She is also developing a tech column for STRESS, and working on a book about hip hop culture. Troy Johnson is the owner and webmaster of www.aalbc.com Craig Knight is a graduate of Kean College and has performed all over the United States with his spoken word group “A Touch of R.E.A.L.L.I.T.Y.” He is in the process of writing his first novel. Gerren Liles is a senior at Morgan State University, with a major in elementary education. He began writing and performing poetry in 1997, and was a slam winner at the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe. Renee Michel began writing professionally, editing and writing proposals for not-for-profit agencies. She is now feature writing while working in the fashion industry. Leah Mullen is a freelance writer who resides in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Leah’s articles have appeared in a number of publications including: The Daily Challenge, Sisters in Motion, and The New York World. Sadeqa Y. Murray is currently at work on both a children’s series and an adult novel. She has a degree in communications and handles publicity for children’s books. Cynthia Ray is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn who originally (and proudly) hails from the Southside of Chicago. C. Candice Ridgon is a poet and freelance writer from Dallas, TX. Her work has appeared in The Arlington/ Dallas Morning News, The Dallas Weekly, and Spirit Food. She is a Griot Award Winner for Storytelling, and is currently working on her first novel. Kalamu ya Salaam is the founding director of Nommo Literary Society, an African American writers workshop in New Orleans; and moderator of Cyberdrum, a listserv for Black writers and diverse supporters of literature. Salaam can be reached at ”kalamu@aol.com” Nichole Shields is an Award-winning poet and is the author of One Less Road to Travel. She is the cofounder of Chicago Writers Collective: A Community of Writers and FLOW (For Love of Writing). Vatisha Smith is a recent graduate of Baruch College with a BA in journalism. Camika Spencer is the self-published author of When All Hell Breaks Loose and is currently working on her second novel, Cubicles. Christopher Stackhouse is a poet and actor. He has appeared in Laurence Fishbourne’s play Riff Raff. In April he produced his first solo art exhibition. He lives in Brooklyn. Nikki Terry is a native of Baltimore, Maryland. She is a recent Liberal Arts graduate from The New School University in Manhattan.

Nikki Terry (circa ‘74) was mistakenly credited as Nikki Taylor in the Spring ‘99 issue. My apologizes to her and the whole Terry family. Please don’t be mad at me Mama Terry! RK. Rosetta Treece is a mother, a wife, a full time student, and a writer. She is proud of who she is becoming and feels any destination she desires is possible. Stacy Warren is a writer, lyricist & vocalist living in Harlem. She is completing her first novel - a children’s book to inspire young people facing major life transitions Gayle Williamson is an assistant professor of English at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, OH. Kelwyn Wright, a Milwaukee based writer, is the webmaster for www.theworldebon.com.

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the men of brewster place

To peel away tha’ smokey curls of dreamstate from reality is 2 interpret, as such, welcome to interpretations. I deal in conversations... in color, so my brushstrokes and techniques differ in direct correlation 2 the vocabulary used in any particular discourse. That said, I must admit an aesthetically pleasing “pretty picture” is seldom the goal; provocation of emotion and thought is tha’ utmost priority. Therefore, indictments against systems of oppression are not always painted in tha’ shades of youth, rather, at times, it is necessary to employ tha’; subtle hues of an aged eye, misty with the memory of indignation. And as each lover must be approached with a singular newness, each love must be choreographed with an ever-changing interplay between light, sound, and emotion visually equated in color and composition. Franz 560 State St. / 7G Brooklyn, NY 11213 (718) 855-6189 the cover:
“Higher Ground” by Franz

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private eye
gone are the days of mickey spillane and raymond chandler. the new crime detective is lean, mean, black and female! with crime solvers like barbara neely’s blanche white, valerie wilson wesley’s tamara hayle and penny mickelbury’s carole ann gibson, women are making a new path for future murder mysteries to follow. grace edwards with her mali anderson series and eleanor taylor bland with the marti macalister series are two authors leading the way.

ms.

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Emlyn Paul

gracefully done done
GRACE EDWARDS TALKS ABOUT HER HEROINE PRIVATE EYE MALI ANDERSON
by Nikki Terry
Writers such as Lorraine Hansberry, Zora Neale Hurston and Ann Petry were the trendsetting storytellers for black America. Now in the ‘90’s, black writers embrace storytelling from a variety of perspectives and genres. Considered the best crime fiction about Harlem since Chester Himes, the dean of black crime fiction, Grace F. Edwards books have successfully earned her the title of Grand Dame’ of Harlem-centered mystery writing. “I had no intention to write mysteries until someone approached me. Walter Mosley was writing about Los Angeles, Valerie Wilson Wesley writes about Newark, so I knew I could write about Harlem.” Edwards is the author of the Mali Anderson Mysteries: If I Should Die, A Toast Before Dying and soon-to-bereleased No Time To Die. Edwards, calm and curious style will entice her readers with every character, and keep their fingertips gripped on the edge of every page as she moves them through each u suspenseful detail.

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EXCERPT

In her work, Edwards calls upon her Harlem roots to tell the true and physical tradition of Harlem. “Harlem really has some beautiful real estate and this is one of the many things I am fascinated by and I also wanted the reader to see,” she explains. Her first mystery novel, If I Should Die was nominated for both the 1997 Anthony Award for Best First Novel and the 1997 McCarthy Award for Best First Novel. Prior to the Mali Anderson mysteries, in 1988 Edwards wrote a straightforward love story, entitled, In the Shadow of the Peacock. Again, taking it back to a familiar territory, Edwards created a story centered out of the Peacock Bar which was located on 8th Avenue in Harlem. Now a collector’s item, In the Shadow Of The Peacock was the first work of fiction by a black writer ever to be published with MacGraw Hill. Grace Edwards is a graduate of the City University of New York where she earned an M. A. in Creative Writing. She is currently teaching at The Writers Voice at the West Side YMCA in New York City. She is a long time member of the Harlem Writers Guild where she leads writing workshops, and an active member of the Sisters In Crime organization. Edwards now resides in Brooklyn where she is working on her 4th mystery novel. She is a dedicated writer to what she calls the “3B’s of Harlem commerce”: the beauty shops, barbershops and bars. No true mystery fan should want to miss out on these juicy “whodunit” mysteries. H

No Time To Die
by Grace Edwards
Doubleday
Our heroine, Mali Anderson, is looking for the killer of her bestfriend and she suspects her friends ex-boyfriend, James, who has been keeping a low-profile since the murder. Here, Mali confronts James about the murder. Two hours later I was ready to leave. The crowd had grown large waiting for the birthday girl and the music had gotten louder. Several drinks were sent our way and Marie had switched to Remy and was no longer interested in talking about James. She raised her glass, and her smile triggered more drinks, which flowed toward us in a steady stream. I decided to stop at three. “Listen, Marie, I appreciate you taking the time. If you think of anything else, give me a call.” I gave her my personal card and moved from the stool. “You sure you don’t want to stay? Party’s just gettin’ started.” “Another time,” I said, “and thanks again.” I made my way toward I the door. Space was tight, drinks were moving, and conversation was loud. I moved slowly, and a short distance from the door, I recognized a familiar voice. James was leaning into the face of a young woman sitting at the bar. “Say, beautiful, you don’t mind if I call you that since we haven’t been formally introduced yet? But you look like a Libra. Am I right?” He wasn’t as smooth as Olestra and just as bogus. The woman looked through him, yawned, and picked up her glass. James persisted. “Okay, it probably ain’t Libra. So, what sign are you?” “Dollar sign,” the girl said through teeth so tight it probably pained her. “Oh,” James said, “in that case, lemme go check my ATM.” He stretched a grin but stepped back as if she had slapped him. Before he had a chance to look my way, I turned around and edged through the crowd again to the end of the bar. A tall, dark, powerfully built man with a shaven head was

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deep in conversation with Marie and she was smiling up at him. She waved. “Say hello to Clyde. He’s a coworker, the one sent all the drinks.” He shook my hand. The grip was as strong as he looked and his voice was low bass against the rhythm of the Dells pumping from the jukebox. “Changed your mind about leavin’? One a my buddies had wanted to talk to you. Said you had the prettiest eyes he ever saw. Brother was hypnotized.” I smiled and shook my head, pulling at Marie’s arm. “Another time, okay? I’ve got to tell Marie something He shrugged, disappointed, as Marie slipped from the stool and followed me to the ladies’ room. “Your face lookin’ funny. What’s up?” “James is here. At the end of the bar. I thought you should know.” “Shit. I don’t need him messin’ up my good time. I been tryin’ to get next to Clyde for a while now.” “What are you going to do?” “Well, I ain’t leavin’, that’s for sure. I’m hangin’ with Clyde for the duration. James see someone that size, he ain’t likely to start no shit. Besides, I got my backup in my bag, remember? But thanks for lookin’ out for me. She touched a comb to her hair and freshened her lipstick and we left the room. I made my way through the crowd again, carefully, trying to spot James. He was gone, probably blown out by the Dollar Sign Sister. When I stepped outside, a silver stretch had pulled to the curb and the chauffeur raced around the side, shooed the crowd, and opened the door. Betty, the barmaid, stepped out wearing a seethrough sheath with clusters of silver sequins that glittered like Fourth of July sparklers when she moved. She was tall and slim and had a bottle of Cristal cradled in one arm and a bouquet of yellow and red long-stem roses in the other. She spotted me and waved the bouquet. “Mali, baby, you’re not leavin’, are you? When

will you see a night like this again? I’m celebratin’ my half a hundred. Won’t see this again. Come on back inside.” “Betty, I’m sorry,” I said, wishing I could. The door of the bar popped open, releasing the rhythm of Stevie Wonder like a hot current. Its undertow pulled people inside and I was sorry, truly sorry, that I couldn’t stay. “Have to get home. Dad has a gig.” “Club Harlem?” “Yes. I’ve got to be home before he leaves.” “Tell ‘im to drop by when he finish up, you hear?” I smiled and waved. “Catch you at the next fifty.” Someone opened the door again and she stepped in, sailed in, to the rhapsody of Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday.” (Cont on page 66)

waverly house

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taylor made
MAYHEM, MOTIVE, MURDER, MYSTERY: ELEANOR TAYLOR BLAND IS THE AUTHOR OF THE BESTSELLING MARTI MACALISTER MYSTERY SERIES
by Nichole Shields
Add one whole corpse, a pinch of clues and simmer in a plot and you’ve created a whodunit murder mystery. Well, it’s not that simple for mystery writer Eleanor Taylor Bland, who admits being clueless to the story line and its development when she starts a novel. “I don’t want to know too much of anything, I don’t know who did it, nothing...” the author told a group of fans at the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library in Chicago. Eleanor Taylor Bland, mother, grandmother and most recently, retired accountant is the author of seven Marti MacAlister mysteries in which the protagonist, female Black detective Marti MacAlister, as well as a host of other characters are carved and shaped with precise details throughout her series. “I came into this [writing mysteries] cold and I didn’t know wrong from right” states Bland. “Walter [Mosley] was the only [contemporary] Black mystery writer when Barbara Neely and I started writing mysteries. We didn’t have too many role models. I came into this innocently, and it has worked well for me. I never read mysteries, no Nancy Drew or Agatha Christie.” After the publication of Dead Time in 1992, Bland began working on Gone Quiet, her third published book. “The second title [Dead Time] was sold before the first [Slow Burn], and when I received Gone Quiet in the mail, I and was surprised. It was then that I felt like a writer,”

Calvin Revis

states the author. Since the release of her first book, Bland has had a title per year published by St. Martin’s Press. Who is Marti MacAlister? “Marti is a strong-minded, independent Black woman, and I wanted to have her in a position of

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power”, states the author. Bland uses the phrase ‘strong Black woman’ sparingly “because people will classify all Black women as ‘a strong Black woman’ in which the ‘strong Black woman’ does not mean strength, but dumped on,” states the author. Marti is also a widowed mother of two and the only black female detective on Lincoln Prairies (a fictitious Chicago suburb) police department. With countless hours of corpses and dead-end clues, in addition to rearing her young son and teenaged daughter, Marti has her hands full. Marti off the Page? Recently, there’s been talk of adapting the mystery series as a play. David Bra, associate artistic director of the Chicago Theater Company, states, “She has a flair for dialogue, and I think we can really make that work on stage.” Bland is quite excited about the possibility of her works being performed live, and will have opportunity for interaction with the writers and producers regarding the development of Marti MacAlister which will help to keep the character’s stage image close to that on the page. The author is also aware that the financial rewards for live performances aren’t as promising as those on the silver screen, but is not disillusioned about the rewards that the silver screen will bring either. “We’re Black and there’s a separate criteria for our works. If Walter [Mosley] does well, then we all do. A majority of the times, we [Black artists] are given options, and we don’t want options, we want serious offers”, states Bland. She also states that her ideal image of Marti on the silver screen would be the actress, Lynn Whitfield. Bland uses many resources when researching a storyline. When writing Tell No Tales, Bland met with a deputy sheriff from the county in which she resides and literally learned the particulars of taking a gun apart. This information caused her to rewrite a crucial scene in the book. Bland’s visits to police stations, conversations with coroners, State’s Attorneys, Fire Inspectors and common folk are all part of the authors precise, sculptured details that can be found in her series. Bland’s novels include, Dead Time, Slow Burn, Gone Quiet, Done Wrong, Keep Still, See No Evil, Tell No Tales. Her forthcoming title, Scream in Silence, will be released in January. H

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WRITING & PUBLISHING NEWS

inkorporated
by Pat Houser Writing and Art by Jewish Women of Color
Bridges: A Journal for Jewish Feminists and Our Friends will be publishing a special issue by Jewish women of color. They are looking for a diversity of voices from the whole range of selfidentified Jewish women of color, including women from the African, Middle Eastern and Asian Jewish communities as well as Jewish women of mixedrace heritage and women of color who have chosen to be Jewish. The work they seek incorporates complexity and expresses something new and different about mixed heritage/multiple identities. We are looking for artistically accomplished writing and art created from outside of a victimization stance. AIN’T NOBODY’S For this special issue we seek unBUSINESS published essays, narratives, fiction, Mystery sleuth Valerie Wilson poetry, reviews and art by Jewish Wesley will trade murder and women of color. mayhem for love and lust with Deadline July 30th, 1999 her forthcoming novel, Ain’t Submissions should be mailed to: Nobody’s Business. Wesley’s Bridges, PO Box 24839, Eugene OR first mainstream love story fea97402 or visit their website at http:/ /www.pond.net/~ckinberg/bridges tures a 40-year-old woman hav-

ing a wild affair with a 28-yearold jazz musician. Wesley is author of the Tamara Hayle mystery series. Ain’t Nobody’s Business is due from Avon Books this summer.

Contact Pat Houser at pathouser@aol.com

For her outstanding publicity work on behalf of Iyanla Vanzant, Simon & Schuster publicist Christine Saunders was named as a finalist in this year’s Literary Market Place Awards. Saunders was cited for exceptional publicity on Vanzant’s books In The Meantime and One Day My Soul Just Opened Up.

OUTSTANDING PUBLICITY

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A NEW YORK STATE OF MIND

Submissions are now being accepted for A NEW YORK STATE OF MIND, an exciting new anthology featuring short stories of diverse Big Apple experiences. Submit your thoughts and experiences in categories such as, Taxicab Tales, Subway Sagas, Elevator Escapades, Tourist in Town, Cookin’ With Crisco, Uptown Saturday Night, and East Side/West Side. Stories may range from humorous, “Only in New York” tales, to inspirational essays, to personal memoirs, to “A kinder, gentler, New York” episodes. You do not have to be a NY native in order to submit! Experienced, as well as unpublished writers are encouraged to submit. Mail submissions, questions, and comments to NYNatv100@aol.com. Please include submission in the body of your email. No files with downloads attached will be accepted.

love sex desire friends lust hate

BLACK SEXUALITY

Sandra Jackson-Opoku, award winning author of The River Where Blood is Born, is seeking submissions for a volume of essays entitled, Black Sexuality and the Dialectic of Desire. Jackson-Opoku, will explore a broad dimension of Black sexual culture and is particularly interested in personal narratives. Send typed, doublespaced manuscripts (7,500 words maximum), a brief biography and SASE to Sandra Jackson-Opoku; c/o Fiction Writing Department, Columbia College, 600 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605 or email the editor at sopoku@earthlink.net.

CUP OF LOVE Stay tuned for Franklin White’s soon to be released Cup of Love. This urban drama explores the lives of black friends and lovers who discover that commitment, tolerance, understanding and loyalty are must-have ingredients in a cup of love. White’s debut novel, Fed Up With the Fanny was an underground success before it was snapped up and republished by Simon & Schuster.

RELATIONSHIP SERIES

Husband and wife team Nick Chiles and Denene Millner garnered major attention and hit the Blackboard Best Sellers list with What Brothers Think, What Sistahs Know. This dynamic duo will continue their brother/sister jargon with What Brothers Think, What Sistahs Know About Sex and Intimacy, to be published in 2000 by William Morrow. Millner is also the author of The Sistahs Rules.
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IN DEPTH REVIEW

the crisis
ESSAYS FROM THE NAACP’S CRISIS MAGAZINE
by Trent Fitzgerald
When you think of one of the most important African American magazines of our century, you can only come to one conclusion: The Crisis. This magazine paved the way for today’s black-owned publications such as Ebony, Jet, Emerge and Black Enterprise to continue the tradition of informing the African American community and increasing black literacy and productivity. The Crisis was also an important vehicle for African American writers to be published to a broad audience. The Crisis’s literary history is expertly edited in a new volume entitled The Crisis Reader by Sondra Kathryn Wilson (Random House). The book provides many editorials from the magazine including poems, plays, fiction, and essays both personal and social. The magazine was founded in 1910 by William Edward Burghardt DuBois, who was also its editor. The Crisis had a major role in the birth of the Harlem Renaissance by provoking the interests in black literature and the improvement of race relations in America. The Crisis had a prominent editorial staff. Jessie Redmon Fauset, the midwife of the Harlem Renaissance, was literary editor. As such, she encouraged and nurtured great writers like Langston Hughes, Georgia D. Johnson, Sonia Pressman and Fenton Johnson. Walter White was the public relations director for the publication. He used his Harlem apartment to network and create an atmosphere “where interracial contracts and contacts were sealed over bootleg spirits.” James Weldon Johnson served as senior editor along with DuBois and helped maintain the boldness of the Negro aesthetic in poetry and the arts. At that time, some of the editorials that were written in the publication were: * Reparations from the U.S. to the families of Negro men and women who were lynched between 1900-1930. * Racism in the Army. * Unfair labor practices towards Negroes. * Sexism in the Civil Rights Movement. * The stereotypical portrayals of African Americans in Hollywood. To its credit, The Crisis kept their columns open to young Negro writers and offered prizes to stimulate and develop creative writing. Some of these young writers became prestigious figures in helping African Americans pursue a quality of life. One young poet, in particular, Frank Horne, won a Crisis writing contest in 1925 for his poem “Letters Found Near A Suicide”. As an adult, he was enlisted into President Franklin Roosevelt’s “Black cabinet” and served in the federal housing department that helped African Americans secure proper housing during the 1940’s. Any reader of black literature will find The Crisis Reader an important literary volume of great writing that should be read and treasured. H

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CULTURAL EXPO AD

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SHORT STORY

the river
by A. Yamina Collins

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“Have you checked the river, yet?” Sandra Garcia asks. She is always asking, standing in the doorway of her casa, hands placed firmly on her hips. She is Mexicana. Today she wears a yellow dress and the sun is hot. She is an old woman now, and I am an old man. Our eyes have become small. We squint in the sun. Our hair is still shiny and black. I can feel the age in my bones. “I have checked the river,” I say, but there is uncertainty in Sandra’s eyes. Like she does not believe me. Like she is unsure. I do not like the picture of the Virgin Mary around her neck. Their eyes condemn me. Eyes that burn. How long ago did you check? She asks. Woman, I have checked, I say, and keep walking. But, how long ago, senoir? They’re always finding them down there, you know - the children. The sun is hot. I do not like her voice. It is shrill and cracking. I do not like that she waits for me to pass by her place each afternoon. She waits everyday, in that same yellow dress, and I must remember to walk the long way home. I must remember to forget the truth; that she lay with me, and I lied with her, all those years ago. I walk fast now. She keeps her hands on her hips and suddenly calls out that she has made lunch. Pastelon she says, and won’t I sit and eat with them? By them she means she and her granddaughter Manuela. Manuela is a young lady now. Manuela has sad eyes. I do not like Manuela’s eyes because of the story they tell. They tell my story, and I cannot sleep. In the hot sun I tell Sandra, no. I will have no meal with her. I must get home, I say. I lean on my cane. I move quickly. She asks about the river one last time. I am impatient. I stop walking. My hands are brown and wrinkly. They are unkempt. I use them alot, these hands of mine. To pray and wipe my eyes. The are very old hands now. I tell Sandra I will not check the river again. Leave me alone, I say, and my eyes burn at the sight of her yellow dress. I am going home I say. I have checked the river. Fifteen years ago. I walk. I count my breaths. It is not easy. Sometimes I forget. I count like this - one, two, three. And remember to breathe. The sun is hot.

The boy vanished long ago. He is not in the river. The boy was a little thing for his age. He looked seven. Maybe eight. He was ten. Scrawny arms and legs. A tiny face. Big teeth. Could eat anything in sight. The vacuum, my Sonia called him, and would run the boy from the kitchen. No me vuelvas loca, she would swat at him. Out! Out! Out! I am an old man now, so I can laugh about it. It is funny. Out! Out! Out! His mother yells, and up the stairs to his room he would go. My son. The house is empty when I get home. It is early in the afternoon and everyone is gone. I have no woman. Only Laya who cleans and is stupid. And Clara. Clara is my daughter. She is not in the kitchen. She is with the baby. Who is with Juan-Reyes. Who is also not in the kitchen. Maybe the three of them are at the fair. Or the park. I do not know. They do not always tell me. Sometimes they are mad at me, even though I am an old man. In my house I use the cane to get up the stairs. There is no one to help me. It is a big house. It is my house. I have sweat tears and blood for it. I call out for Laya who never works weekends, and Clara who is not home. Laya is a lovely girl, two days past sixteen and very stupid. She has already opened her shirt for me. Padre Martinez would not like that. Padre Martinez is a priest of God. He says I worry too much. I see him everyday in the afternoon, when I walk to the church. I walk there to confess. He is a good man, Padre Martinez. Sometimes I show him pictures of the boy. He remembers the boy. He says the boy is in heaven now. He says my boy was a good boy. I say yes, he was. On this day that is hot, when I have returned from confession - and have passed by the home of Sandra Garcia, in her yellow dress - I stop at the top of the staircase and catch my breath. They are hard for an old man, these stairs. I have to remember to breathe. I do not always remember to do that. Breathe. The only thing I remember are the shoes. u

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The black and white sneakers the boy wanted for Christmas, but I did not give him. I bought them later on, after he’d gone missing. I put the shoes at the foot of his bed and kept them in a box. I thought the boy might come back. Padre Martinez says the boy is in heaven. But, maybe he is only traveling. Maybe he is only upset about the shoes, and will come back. Victor, my son. I am at the top of the stairs now and walk to the boy’s room. It is down the hall. In his room I place my cane on the floor, and lie down on his bed. It is a soft bed. It smells like the boy. It smells like my Victor. My eyes burn. It is a hot day. I fall asleep. Clara comes in and wakes me. She complains that I have fallen asleep on the boy’s bed again. Again I have done this, she says. I should sleep in my own bed, she says. Her teeth grind when she speaks. Behind her is Juan-Reyes. He is shaking his head and holding the baby. Juan-Reyes is a handsome young man. Twenty-five. My Victor would have been the same age. Juan-Reyes does not have sad eyes. His eyes are firm. He is my daughter’s husband. He is stubborn. But, I am more stubborn. I can beat him in stubbornness. We fight sometimes, he and I. With words. He knows I am an old man. But we fight. He will not fight with Clara, however. She is his corazon , he says, and I wonder if he is faithful. Men are never faithful. Even when they love. They have a baby, these two. They are young and married. Juan-Reyes is a good man. He works hard with his hands, but has no money. Papi, he says to me, bouncing the baby in his arms. Papi, did you eat? I forgot, I say. So, you did not eat? I am not hungry. Why you did not eat? I forgot. So you did not eat? No. Papi, we will have American food, he says. Look, it is dark out. We will have hamburgers and apple pie. We will eat American food.

They help me from the bed, but do not look at the shoes. The ones I clutch in my arms. The boy’s shoes. Clara says up, up! Papi. And her words snap when she speaks. Sometimes I think she is mad at me. There is always heat in her cheeks, and spit in her throat. Like she is waiting to say something. Like she is mad. I think it is because Juan-Reyes wants to take her away from me, and I have said no. We are Ecuadorian, I say. And I am the money behind this family. What is in America? Everything is in America, my Clara always says. Nothing, is in America, I say, and will not let Juan-Reyes take her from me. I am the power behind this family. If my Clara leaves, I will be alone. An old man alone, without his children or his wife. Is that fair? You will have Laya, Clara always says. Who is Laya? I ask. She is a servant girl, young and stupid. Sixteen. She can clean the house, that is all. But, I have neither son nor wife. Will you go now, too? Clara never answers. She and Juan-Reyes are in love. They want me to eat American food. I want only to sleep. That is all. I want to think about the boy. I want to forget the feel of Sandra Garcia, all those years ago. She laying with me, and I lying with her. I want to forget the sting of her Manuela’s eyes. Eyes that burn. Eyes that condemn. I can see the girl now, peering into the room with shock at the sight of my nakedness. The room is slightly lit, and her little head leans in through the door. She sees us making shadows on the wall. Senoir Varacuza, the child speaks, and the sound of her voice makes me jump from the bed. Senoir Varacuza, she says again, nine years old and scared. Your wife is looking for you. She is outside the door. Whose door? I ask. Our door, she says. She is here. —I cannot speak. My voice is caught in my throat—It is about your son, the girl continues. He is missing. The boy wanted shoes for Christmas.

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American shoes with black tops and white soles. He wanted to show them to his friends. He was a little boy. We checked the river. We never found him. When you go to the States for business, Papi, will you get them for me? I am in my suit and tie. I am not an old man now. Maybe forty-five. I am standing in the mirror in the bathroom of my house. It is a big house. We are not poor. We live well. I have bled for this house. Sonia is in the kitchen with Clara making cookies. Clara is a precious daughter. It is a Saturday morning, fifteen years ago. I am leaving for business. The boy stands in the doorway of the bathroom, watching me. He is eating. Papi? He speaks again, with his breakfast plate in his hand. Boy, you never eat at the table, I say. The boy laughs. There is food in his mouth. The boy loves his mother’s cooking. Can I have the shoes, Papi?

Only if your grades are good, Victor. I have good grades, he says. Can I have the shoes? When I come back, I say. Yes. No, no. Papi. Americano. I want Americano shoes. What difference does it make? The boy looks at me. He has black eyes and a small face. He looks no bigger than seven. Maybe eight. He is ten. What difference does it make? Papi! —to the boy, I have spoken blasphemy—No, difference, I say. I am a stubborn man. Your Americano shoes are probably made here, boy. They will be my Christmas present, yeah? he asks. I have been good. I look at my son through the mirror and smile. He is healthy, but small. Papi, even Ms. Garcia says I have been good, (Cont. on page 62)

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iSLAND VOiCES
With color and flair writers from the Caribbean are bringing beautiful and honest words from their islands to our shores. We interviewed Loida Maritza Perez, Elizabeth Nunez, Staceyann Chin and Colin Channer who are continuing the tradition.

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Colin Channer
by Stacey Warren
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking at length with the Colin Channer, author of The Blackboard bestselling novel, Waiting in Vain. Channer’s debut novel, has received much attention both here and abroad. Readers may recall that I also reviewed Waiting in the Fall ’98 issue of Mosaic and found this work to be well worth a read. After a series of missed calls and telephone messages, Colin and I managed to arrange a casual phone interview to discuss his popular new novel and the unique approach he takes to his craft. To refresh your memory, Waiting in Vain is a fictional romantic tale of about two people, “Fire” and “Sylvia” who are brought together by a number of chance meetings within a circle of mutual associates, friends and lovers. Destiny not being as simple a concept as it seems, getting what is “meant to be” to simply “be” is anything but easy for Fire and Sylvia. Standing between them are the ghosts of failed relationships, envy, distance and misperceptions of class and status. Sylvia, a magazine editor, is unaware of Fire’s international success as a writer. Although she is intensely attracted to and in love with the unassuming and mysterious Fire, Sylvia is uncertain of how Fire maintains his carefree jet-setting lifestyle, and is hesitant to jeopardize her stagnant though professionally beneficial relationship to a wealthy and well connected businessman. Fire on the other hand, is content to wait for Sylvia to come to him. While awaiting fate to deliver Sylvia, Fire focus’ his efforts into saving the life of his childhood friend “Ian,” for whom old envies, drug abuse and a declining art career, has propelled down a path of self destruction. Channer is one of 4 children raised by his parents in a middle-class household in Jamaica, West Indies. He came to the states in the early 80’s to complete his education and join his mother who had already migrated here. As a college sophomore, Colin worked as a freelance writer for, EM and Black Enterprise. Upon graduation, he began a career in journalism and joined Essence as an editorial assistant. When asked what sparked his interest in writing, Channer revealed that he was an early reader (beginning at age 2) and always had a love for words. His desire to write was always present but was not nurtured during his adolescent years in Jamaica. Channer states that were no Jamaican writers at the time with whom his generation could identify. Also, the rigid (Cont. on page 68)

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stacyann chin
by Duval
Staceyann Chin, a young Jamaican poet living and working in New York City calls herself “a young firebrand.” I personally can not think of a more deserving title. I had the opportunity to see Staceyann strut her stuff at VAASNA KAA JAADU II, an evening of erotic poetry, music and dance. The show brought together a diverse group of artists, merging poet’s words with dance, music, song and visual arts. The audience, myself included, was taken by her spoken word, presence, and delivery. Her prose allowed us to visualize the world of Staceyann. She was honest and direct, and the combination of all that she offered that night was a host of memories for us all. Staceyann attended the Mount Alvernia High School, then went on for a four year tenure at Shortwood Teachers College in Jamaica. She taught for one year before furthering her studies at the University of the West Indies, where she pursued a Bachelors degree in English Literature and Philosophy. Writing and performing poetry for a little over a year, Staceyann recalls dreadful entries in her journal at the age of eight and her horrible attempts at poetry. She admits that she didn’t pay attention to the craft. Staceyann now pays tribute to Lorna Goodison, a fellow Jamaican poet, who sparked her desire to write. Staceyann would say to herself, “If only I could write and move a crowd like Lorna.” This thought ignited her spark. At Nuyorican Poets Cafe she fell in love with the spoken word movement and desired to be part of it all. With a sense of divine inspiration, passionate and delicate emotions, deep thought, great sincerity, and spontaneity Stacyann perfected her craft. Her poetry shows she doesn’t worry about who she is, but instead concentrates on what she does. While her poetry seems highly personal and almost autobiographical, representing both her thoughts and her life, she also pays tribute to an English professor she once had, E. Bough, and a fellow writer Roger Bonair-Agard, as well as a host of other great writers. Now growing in leaps and bounds as a full-time poet and performer with (Cont. on page 65)

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elizabeth nunez
by Renee Michel
When Dr. Elizabeth Nunez was all of nine years old she entered in the Trinidad Guardian newspaper’s Tiny Tots writing contest. Her first prize victory was more than news to her parents who were not even aware that she’d been a contestant. The honor was well suited for a little girl whose mother tirelessly confronted her about her tendency to embellish the truth — well, lying is what she called it. “I loved to embellish…The truth always seemed so dry to me… I love words and what they do.” Nunez confessed impishly. It was not without effort, she added, that her parents were able to pull her away from her books and her bedroom — where she’d read all day — to accomplish her chores. An enthusiastic reader who loved to write, Nunez’s favorite authors were male descendents of the British who colonized her island at the end of th the 18 century. Trinidad, Nunez’s native country, is also homeland to Sara, the main character of her current award-winning novel, Beyond the Limbo of Silence. The work, which was published by Seal Press in October 1998, is a coming-of-age story about a young girl who eventually leaves the West Indies, via scholarship, to attend college in Wisconsin. “In many ways the novel parallels my life,” asserts Nunez whose early education was shaped by colonialism. Consequently, she believed that becoming an author was unattainable. It was not until she herself began college in Wisconsin that she was introduced to female and Black writers. She is thankful to author John Oliver Killens with whom she studied while on sabbatical from her professorship. She was encouraged by Killens over ten years ago to secure publication of her first novel, When Rocks Dance. Having received both her MA and Doctorate degrees in Literature from New York University, she now teaches there seasonally. Her heart though is with the students at Medgar Evers College where she has implemented the writing courses she instructs full-time. Among sev(Cont. on page 69)

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loida maritza perez
by Tracy Grant
Loida Maritza Pérez is laughing. It is the gleeful, confident laugh of someone who knows she’s won. The author of Geographies of Home is enjoying the critical acclaim of her first novel, a story of a Dominican family who struggle with the cultural and social issues that arise as a result of their residence in New York City. The author is clearly pleased with how well her work has been received. Still, it is more fruitful for Ms. Pérez (or Maritza as she likes to be called) since she completed and sold Geographies on what seemed to be very much her own terms. Maritza was kind enough to speak to Mosaic from her home in New York after returning from an extensive book tour. That conversation revealed her many motivations for writing Geographies, as well as her feelings about an audience with whom she has struck a chord. Pérez has been welcomed by the public, in the literary world and in particular among the Latino audience. She tells a story about a reading during which she heard shrieks from the audience. The screams came from folks who could relate to the hens that appear in her story. “People are telling me ‘thank you,’ you’re writing about my uncle or my father…people bring their own lives into what they read. So I’ve gotten the whole gamut…” Since she shares a similar background with her character Iliana — Dominicanborn, New York raised, college educated - Geographies of Home lends itself to comparisons with Pérez’s real life. Throw in the fact that this is her first novel and the question is inevitable. “Yes and no,” she says when asked if Geographies is autobiographical. “Anything one writes to a degree is autobiographical. The book reflects how I feel about certain things, issues I wanted to deal with, specific traits where men and women in Hispanic communities are expected to act a certain way.” In Geographies, Iliana leaves college and returns to her Brooklyn home to help her parents and her many siblings cope with a host of problems. Her return home is the beginning of a self-discovery, set within a poignant story about family and what Pérez’s publisher calls ‘cultural dislocation’. Again, one can only wonder how much of Iliana is in Martiza, but she insists that Geographies isn’t an individual story, rather one about a family. “The first chapter I ever wrote was [Chapter] eight,” she reveals. “Everyone assumes Iliana was the (Cont. on page 65)

Marion Ettinger

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REVIEWS

The Prisoner’s Wife by asha bandele
Scribner Books Reviewed by Tara Betts

While most contemporary black writers are spinning tales about middle-class buppies facing professional career problems and infidelity, bandele talks about becoming a prisoner’s wife while inmates are arguing over a chicken sandwich. She tells how long the bus ride is to visit her husband and how there are many more women just like her, some trying to raise children and some seeing other men outside of jail to sustain themselves. bandele speaks of these matters without overpoliticizing them or making each vignette a sob story full of self-pity in The Prisoner’s Wife. More than a series of anecdotes or a love story set within a growing vortex that pulls black people into institutions, this book is a gathering of lessons on how women and men need to talk to each other in relationships and how they need to develop themselves as people in order to be connected to each other. bandele’s acutely personal reflections force a thoughtful consideration on the state of relationships both within and out of prison. The Prisoner’s Wife addresses the timely issue of love obstructed by confinement and how one couple deals with this increasingly, and unfortunately, more common dilemma in America. As more prisons are being built and disproportionate numbers of black people are incarcerated, stories like bandele’s are knitting a love where loose threads are constantly pulled to weaken any attempts at strengthening or developing families. bandele introduces the sensitive material from the past few years of her own life with imagery and tenderness. She met her husband Rashid while volunteering and performing in a prison. The one man who has helped her cope with her pain through his letters, phone calls and her visits, is serving 20 years to life for a murder conviction. Instead of trying to convince readers of his innocence or discuss Rashid’s past, bandele focuses on the myriad of feelings fanning out of such a precarious situation. Whether she tries to explain to people why they should not judge his love for her or the way she bathes with candles burning

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while listening to Nina Simone when she reads his letters. It is apparent that bandele is constantly sorting through the ramifications of their predicament. Rashid helps her begin to heal the inner wounds inflicted upon her by sexual assault, low selfesteem and so many other complexities that black women face yet rarely see printed for the world to see and know. Her bravery at describing an awkward and often misjudged truth is inspiring.

spiritual-seekers of both genders and all races and creeds. A moving account of a woman’s struggle to find and keep God in her very crowded and busy life, this tale is as much a guidebook as it is a collection of private discussions with God. A must-read for anyone who is struggling with faith, it also serves as a good read for those who can still hear God on a daily basis. Readers will walk away with a keen strength to trust God even when all you can hear is silence.

Listening For God: A Minister’s Journey Through Silence and Doubt by Renita J. Weems
Simon & Schuster Reviewed by Sadeqa Y. Murray

I Left My Back Door Open by April Sinclair
Hyperion Reviewed by Trent Fitzgerald

Renita J. Weems is one of the most respected ministers and biblical scholars in the country, and her beautifully crafted writing reflects her extensive wisdom and knowledge. She speaks to groups all over the country and is a pioneer scholar in the field of Old Testament studies. So how does one who is supposedly an expert on prayer and spiritual discipline admit there are times when her heart and soul cannot find the God she recommends to others? How does a woman of her caliber admit to feeling a silence that has been so unbearable at times she could not bring herself to pray to God and instead, wrote to him in her journal? How does a reverend give access to a spiritual crisis so profound she was sure it marked an irreparable rupture in her communication with God? These are Weems’ experiences and her story is told with moving personal anecdotes. Her writing reveals both her intellectual acuity and humanity as she delves into her life and allows her struggles to give readers a true account of how frightening and lonesome a path is when you are no longer communicating with God. Listening For God was written from the unique perspective of a woman, an African-American and a Protestant Christian. Yet it offers rich insights for
John Sann

Jean “Stevie” Stevenson—the Chicagoan of Amazonian stature—is back...well, sort of. Stevie is the protagonist who discovers herself during the 1960’s in April Sinclair’s previous bestselling novels Coffee Will Make You Black and Ain’t Gonna Be The Same Fool Twice. In her new novel, I Left My Back Door Open, Stevie is reincarnated as Daphne “Dee Dee” Dupree, a divorced 41 year-old blues radio DJ with D-cup sized breasts, a size 16 waist and a resilient attitude. While Stevie was on a long journey of self-discovery, Dee Dee is on a journey of defining herself after abusive ordeals in her childhood and an unconsummated marriage. An interesting cast of characters accompany Dee Dee on her voyage: the frustrated married couple, Sarita and Phil; the 40 year-old lesbian and her 15 year-old daughter, Sharon and Tyeesha; the racist white co-worker, Freddy Washington; the sexually explorative Asian couple, Yoshi and Jade; and the other major character in the book, a sexy black male named Skylar. I Left My Back Door Open takes its title from an old saying that loosely translates to “When you close the front door to compose the mind and renew the spirit, hell comes in from the back door to kick you in the ass.” This happens to Dee Dee quite often u throughout the book.

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Sinclair fans will revel in her compelling writing of sisterhood – the joys, the pain, the laughter and the jealousies. The care she takes with rendering the landscape, the characters, and the season makes reading this tale a pleasant experience. I Left My Back Door Open is a solid piece of writing and with all of Dee Dee’s conflicting challenges, she’s full of charm.

Buxton Spice by Oonya Kempadoo
Dutton Books Reviewed by Cynthia Ray

Buxton Spice is a large, rigid, imposing mango tree – a symbol for the theme of withheld thoughts, desires, feelings, truth and knowledge that is woven throughout this coming-of-age story. Set in fictional Tamarind Grove, Guyana, during a politically unstable period of dictatorial rule in the 1970’s, Buxton Spice is noticeably devoid of the peaceful tropical paradise stereotype. The narrator and main character of this debut effort is Lula, the pre-pubescent daughter of mixedrace and East Indian parents who are also British expatriates. Lula runs with a rowdy and adventurous coterie, which includes her Portuguese neighbors, the DeAbro sisters. Lula’s eyes and ears observe and record everyone from poor homeless vagrants to popular prostitutes, and while she yearns to know secrets most answers remain elusive. Secrets and unspoken words trail like shadows on the ensemble of characters in Buxton Spice, friends, neighbors and the infamous among them. While many elements make the story memorable, Kempadoo doesn’t seek to enlighten the unfamiliar reader about the often fascinating nuances of Indo-Caribbean culture and history. Unfamiliar island colloquialisms make descriptive passages a bit difficult to decipher. As a result, meaning is often lost for the presumed sake of

lyricism. Full of youthful eroticism, however, the book ambles along, indulging chapter after chapter to Lula’s developing sexual desires and her exploration of these intense new feelings with requisite adolescent observation. Slowly erupting sexual and political tension converge to an abrupt climax; Lula and her family’s world changes overnight. They are forced to leave the island when the intrusion of the recent political upheaval comes too close to home. After reading the back cover of Buxton Spice, which included praise from major British newspapers, I was prepared for Indo-Caribbean storytelling the likes of Marina Budhos’ first book, House of Waiting or a poignant coming-of-age tale the caliber of Shay Youngblood’s first novel, Soul Kiss. Unfortunately, by the end of Buxton Spice, I did not feel I had found a literary voice the peer of either of these writers. Despite my lack of discovery, readers who enjoy Caribbean-based literary fiction may be able to keep pace and find satisfaction with Buxton Spice. In fairness, perhaps we should wait to hear more from Kempadoo, as her first effort may not be her best yet.

Listen Up! Spoken Word Poetry Edited by Zoë Anglesey
Introduction by Yusef Komunyakaa
One World/Ballantine Reviewed by Camika Spencer

Some of the nation’s top young urban poets are profiled in Listen Up! Spoken Word Poetry. Politics, relationships, observations, spirituality and street savvy are the paths on which they travel while using their voices to speak their reality. Tish Benson, Suheir Hammad, Tracie Morris, Ava Chin, Jessica Care Moore and Mariahdessa Ekere Tallie are the featured women offering the yang approach with the tact and grit of women who know what they know and are not afraid to stand up and express themselves. Benson’s “No Parts Spared” is the eye-catcher in her section, and includes lines that create visions of a person

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near death because of gun violence. Other captivating pieces include Moore’s “Ishah,” a tale of little girls who struggle to love against all odds and Tallie’s “Sometimes,” in which she personifies poetry when she writes, “Poems crawl in bed with me wrap themselves around my legs insistent that they get written.” The men selected for Listen Up! each come with a no-holds-barred approach as well, tinkering with rhythms and styles while coloring outside the lines with words. They validate their right to live amongst the pages of this book, proving to the world that there is not just one way to be a poet. Willie Perdomo, known for his “Nigger-Reecan Blues” (not included), fiddles songs with heavy emotions, while his counterpart, Carl Hancock Rux, tells poetic stories, which he does best in his piece, “Blue Candy.” Finally, Saul Williams represents himself with two submissions, “Gypsy Girl” and “Children of the Night.” Saul’s approach, like Perdomo and Rux, is full of emotion mixed with rigid sustenance and embellished with standard writer’s techniques, proving he knows the game, but doesn’t always wish to play. Listen Up! represents some of the wisest and most articulate young voices on the poetry scene to date and rightfully so. This book is a great read for those who support the art of poetry, who are willing to witness words leap from pages and who can appreciate the aesthetic importance of what poetry offers the world.

Plain Talk and Common Sense From the Black Avenger by Ken Hamblin
Simon & Schuster Reviewed by Kelwyn Wright

Ken Hamblin, author of Plain Talk and Common Sense, which is a collection of previously published newspaper columns, is called “the Black Avenger”. Yet one wonders just what it is he is avenging. It is not 300 years of oppression, as he

is clearly on the side of those who are sick and tired of blacks complaining about it. Hamblin is an apologist for the “Good old U.S. of A. – warts and all” despite the fact that he hates apologists of all stripes. He castigates those who would have the temerity to support the President in the face of his obvious shortcomings, and he belittles anyone who dares stand up for the poor and the disenfranchised. Hamblin feels free to use pejoratives like “black trash” and “bottom feeders” (“Pick a Better Country”) when referring to the underclass, and he offers fanciful notions of a “liberal” media (as if a media dominated by the likes of Rupert Murdock, General Electric and Walt Disney could be considered “liberal”). His constant juxtaposition of “evil” Democrats (“Clinton Lowers the Bar...”) and “righteous” Republicans (“Saint Newt...”) is also laughable. There is as much difference between the Democrats and the Republicans as there is between Harvard and Yale. Both are playing a rich man’s game. The meek may inherit the earth, but not during this Congress. Plain Talk and Common Sense is arranged in 14 easy-to-digest sections with titles such as “The American Dream,” “Liberals,” “Race,” “Crime,” “Guns,” “Capital Punishment,” and “Patriotism.” Pick your poison. In his essay, “African American - Pick One,” Hamblin offers a cautionary tale about how “Running down America has become such a popular...liberal-minded thing...that even some dusky Africans do it.” Hamblin, who is a first generation American from immigrant Caribbean parentage offers thinking that is symptomatic of something else. Like a lot of blacks not “bawhn” here, and thereby not personally tainted by America’s peculiar form of racism, he identifies not with the oppressed, but with the oppressors. In fact, Hamblin offers the best review of this collection with the first three words of his Octo- u

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ber 1998 essay entitled, “Clintons Change Their Tune on Impeachment: ‘Disingenuous. Phony. Questionable.’”

Clifford’s Blues by John A. Williams

Coffee House Press Reviewed by Robert Fleming Known for his influential novels, The Man Who Cried I Am and Captain Blackman, John A. Williams again takes his readers to school with his latest classic work. Clifford’s Blues is the

fictionalized account of an African American musician held captive in Dachau, one of the most infamous of the Nazi death camps, during World War II. The novel was inspired by a photograph, seen by the author in 1965, of a pair of black inmates that was taken at the deadly internment facility located near Munich. The premise flips the entire Holocaust mythology on its head with its richly detailed journal of New Orleans jazz pianist and expatriate Clifford Pepperidge, and chronicles the frenzied cultural and political times of the new Aryan Germanic state from 1933 to 1945. Much like Christopher Isherwood’s decadent Berlin Stories featuring cabaret singer Sally Bowles, Williams’ resourceful protagonist serves as a symbol for exploring the larger themes of moral and spiritual corruption, sex and power, and the art of survival in an overwhelmingly hostile environment. “Although Clifford is a black man fleeing American racism, the issues he confronts in Hitler’s Germany are universal in scope, the larger dilemmas confronting the entire human race,” says Williams, the award-winning journalist and retired Rutgers University professor from his New Jersey home. “His situation as an outsider

in Nazi Germany gives him an unique perspective on survival in the hellish daily life of the prisoner. We’re still dealing with race and racism so we often forget our relationship to the rest of the world. Clifford shares his suffering and pain with other outsiders from all over Europe they’re under the heel of the Nazis at the camp. With white America today, they don’t give a damn about the United Nations because there are so many people of color there. As people of color here in America, we must take a more global look at our world and our place in it. That’s what happens here in Clifford’s Blues.” Arrested on a trumped-up charge of “immorality to the state” following a sex scandal with a male lover, Clifford is taken to Dachau where Dieter Lange, a married bisexual SS officer and familiar face from the musician’s days in the jazz and gay haunts of Berlin, becomes his protector, shielding him from the fate of certain death — marked by the homosexual pink triangle he wears. Lange grants Clifford a job as his private servant and sexual boy toy, constantly reminding his captive of his dual crisis of having “black skin in pink Germany.” By playing the forbidden “Niger Musik” at his boss’ parties for the camp officers, Clifford endures his tormented existence while hordes of Poles, Jews, Gypsies and maverick Germans meet death in Dachau’s ovens. Through arduous, painstaking research of life in the Nazi death factories, Williams brings the inner workings of Dachau into gripping, heartstopping realism. The collected pages of Clifford’s diary record his time among the living skeletons who persisted amid inhumane conditions by doing whatever was necessary to live another wretched day. Clifford’s words, often scribbled hastily on whatever type of paper was available, speak eloquently of the vicious degradation and dehumanization suffered by those managing to see yet another day with an empathetic exactness found only in the unadorned testimony of Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi.

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Williams’ love of history led him to search for information on black prisoners during that war, never ceasing his quest to uncover precious data about African Americans held in enemy camps. “We get a lot of information, but not much truth,” he says. “If you want to be a writer, you must do the work, the homework, the research, regardless of the odds. Study history. Literature lives in history. And don’t just confine your study to your own culture and history. Literature awaits us in everything, all of history.” Imagine, if you will, thousands upon thousands of shrunken people, all bones, nearly dead, standing behind barbed fences, watching the Germans prepare to retreat from the oncoming swarm of the Allies. The hopeful, Clifford among them, know their time is running out, waiting amid the countless stacks of bodies for the Germans and their Third Reich to vanish into the forest away from the killing camps: Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Trebinka, Riga, Mauthausen, and the hundreds of others. In Clifford’s words, the spark of anticipation still flickered: “Waiting. We’re all waiting, like for some lover to come, only he hasn’t said exactly what time or what day... I’m forty-four and still looking for the best loving ever! Freedom! Freiheit! Befreiung! Liberation!” Much as a seasoned film director would, Williams employs his sure touch with language, jazz history, war trivia and human emotions to etch an unforgettable psychological study of a survivor who confronts several types of holocausts in his embattled life. Readers benefit greatly from the author’s awesome effort of craftsmanship, research and imagination. Furthermore, Clifford Pepperidge is one of Williams’ finest fictional creations, assuring anyone doubtful of the veteran writer’s staying power that the universality of his work, the unrelenting verve of his prose, the uncompromising character of

his voice all remains intact. Lastly, we must thank Coffee House Press for making this exceptional novel, Clifford’s Blues, possible when all others fled from its controversial topic. Welcome back, Mr. Williams!

Go Gator and Muddy the Water by Zora Neale Hurston Edited by Pamela Bordelon
W. W. Norton & Company Reviewed by Christopher Stackhouse

Most readers who have experienced Zora Neale Hurston’s fiction are struck by the elastic depth of character her lines convey. She portrays a Southern People with cruel frankness and profound love. Go Gator and Muddy the Water is a two-part book featuring a collection of Hurston’s Federal Writer’s Project writings and biographical essay compiled by Pamela Bordelon. Giving context to the complex motives of this classic American writer, Bordelon’s essay discusses Hurston’s familial background, writing (and living) habits with a focus on her days as a staff writer for the FWP in Florida. She regardfully illustrates the sometimes dubious balancing act the writer maintained as a talented black woman working in America’s Jim Crow South during the Depression Era. Discerning readers may, at first, cringe with bitterness reading a segment of a Hurston letter written to generous white patron Carita Corse, where she refers to herself as the woman’s “pet darkey”, and further, “Yes, I know that I belong to you.” Nevertheless, Hurston parlayed shrewd wit into an exceptionally productive career, and often voluptuous lifestyle. Bordelon makes it clear that Hurston understood her own personal worth, as well the importance of what she was accomplishing as a writer and anthropologist of American folklore. (Cont. on page 54)

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H I E R O G LY P H I C S

by Kalamu Ya Salaam

t e h m t o y h f s l t d o i u e
NO WRITER IS AN ISLAND

No writer creates alone. Even those who withdraw from human contact — the Salingers and O’Toole’s of literature — are actually shaped by their social development, or more precisely, in the cases just cited, by their social deficiencies. No matter how technically brilliant such writers may be, unless under girded by social exchange and observations thereon, their writing will not stand the ultimate test of greatness: is the work relevant across time and across cultures?

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In order to achieve both linear (across generations) and lateral (across cultures) greatness, writers must be both immersed in a specific era/culture and conscious of that era’s relationship to other eras and other cultures. It is not enough to report on or even analyze the news of the day. The ultimate meanings of human existence transcend the specifics of any given moment. In practice achieving greatness means moving beyond topicality, requires that we insightfully deal with how and why humans are shaped by social and environmental forces, and deal with how we respond to our specific shaping processes. As writers, our goal is the expert use of words to convey ideas and information, emotions and experiences, dreams and visions. On the one hand we must study, and study hard, the development of our craft, but, on the other hand, we must never forget that craft without content is meaningless. Beyond the craft/content argument is the more important question of writing for whom? Who is our audience? Are we connected to others? An audience is the single greatest determinant of the shape and relevance of one’s craft. How is this so? This is so because as writers our whole craft is based on communication and, quiet as it is too often kept, communication requires an audience. Some of us insist that we write to please no one but ourselves. But does that mean we write for an audience of one? No, it does not. When we write only with ourselves in mind, we are implicitly trying to communicate with the social elements that shaped our being. Indeed, who does not want to be understood by their parents, their children, their siblings and peers? Besides, if we were writing literally only for ourselves as an audience of one, we would have no need to share our writing, no need to publish or recite our writings.

In the contemporary United States, “audience” has been collapsed into the concept of consumers, people who literally buy whatever is marketed. That is ultimately a very cynical approach to determining who is one’s audience. To write for and about a specific audience does not necessarily mean writing to sell to that audience. What it does mean is using the culture of the intended audience as the starting point (and hopefully an ending point) for our work. Writing well in English presupposes that we deal with the history of English-language literature, a significant part of which includes use as a tool in the historic process of colonizing people of color. As able a craftsperson as Ralph Ellison was, craft is not what distinguishes “Invisible Man.” Rather, Ellison’s insightful handling of an investigation of the anti-humanist effects of exploitation and oppression on those who are victimized by a dominant and dominating society is the significance of that novel. Ellison understands at a depth few others have so thoroughly presented in the novel format, that both those who fight against their subjugation and those who are not even conscious of their condition are twisted by social forces. However, Ellison’s novel is not merely a political screed because Ellison is more concerned with the range of human responses to social conditions than he is with advocating a specific social order. Moreover, far more than many books that on the surface seem to be more political, Ellison’s novel is grounded in the cultural mores, the folklore, of mid-20th century African American life. Invisible Man can not be fully appreciated without an appreciation of Black culture. A horrible truth is that too many of us are unprepared to write significant literature because we have no real appreciation of our audience as fellow human beings, as cultural creatures. We know neither history nor contemporary conditions. We talk about “keeping it real” but have no factual knowledge of reality. Thus, we glibly bandy (Cont. on page 60)

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BESTSELLERS LISTS The Cultural Book Store

State of Illinois Building, 100 W. Randolph Suite 207 Chicago, IL 60601 (312) 214-1314

1. Nobody’s Perfect by Patricia Haley-Brown 2. Yesterday I Cried by Iyanla Vanzant 3. One Less Road To Travel by Nichole Shields 4. Abide With Me by E. Lynn Harris 5. In the Meantime by Iyanla Vanzant 6. Lil Mama Rules by Sheneska Jackson 7. The Harris Men by R.M. Johnson 8. Beeperless Remote by Van Whitfield 9. When All Hell Breaks Loose by Camika Spencer 10. No More Sheets: The Truth About Sex by Juanita Bynum

The Afro-American Book Shop

1400 Poydras, 2nd Fl #528 New Orleans, LA 70130 (504) 243-2436

1. Abide With Me by E. Lynn Harris 2. Web of Deception by LaJoyce Brookshire 3. Nothing But the Rent by Sharon Mitchell 4. One Day My Soul Just Opened Up by Iyanla Vanzant 5. Friends and Lovers by Eric Jerome Dickey 6. Acts of Faith by Iyanla Vanzant 7. In the Meantime by Iyanla Vanzant 8. Tryin’ To Sleep In the Bed You Made by Donna Grant & Virginia Deberry 9. Milk In My Coffee by Eric Jerome Dickey 10. Fed Up With the Fanny by Franklin White
Seventh Child : A Lucky Life by Freddie Mae Baxter, Gloria Bley Miller (Editor) Alfred A. Knopf Souls Looking Back : Life Stories of Growing Up Black by Tracy L. Robinson, Robert Kilkenny Routledge Books As I Am : Young African American Women in a Critical Age by Julian C. R. Okwu (Introduction) Chronicle Books

TITLES TO LOOK FOR
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The Pig Farmers Daughter and Other Tales of American Justice by Mary Frances Berry Alfred A Knopf Books Song for Anninho by Gayl Jones Beacon Press Ay, Cuba! : A Socio-Erotic Journey by Andrei Codrescu, David Graham (Photographer) St. Martins Press

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BESTSELLERS LISTS Serengeti Plains
615 Bloomfield Ave. Montclair, NJ 07042 (973) 783-2828

1. Sacred Bond: Black Men and Their Mothers by Keith Michael Brown 2. Lest We Forget by Velma Thomas 3. The Lady, Her Lover, Her Lord by T.D. Jakes 4. One Day My Soul Just Opened Up by Iyanla Vanzant 5. In The Meantime by Iyanla Vanzant 6. Body and Soul by Rundu 7. Men of Color by Lloyd Boston 8. Labelle Cuisine by Patti Labelle 9. Yesterday, I Cried by Iyanla Vanzant 10. Abide With Me by E. Lynn Harris

Mosaicbooks.com
www.mosaicbooks.com

1. Sometimes I Cry by Linda Dominique Grosvenor 2. Temptations by Victoria Christopher Murray 3. Getting To the Good Part by Lolita Files 4. Damaged by Bernadette Y. Connor 5. Waiting In Vain by Colin Channer 6. Abide With Me by E. Lynn Harris 7. Milk In My Coffee by Eric Jerome Dickey 8. Actions Speak Louder by Shandra Hill 9. Wake of the Wind by J. California Cooper 10. A Toast Before Dying by Grace Edwards

The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories by Stewart Brown, John Wickham Oxford University Press Pieces of Dreams by Donna Hill BET / Arabesque Books Souls Looking Back: Life Stories of Growing Up Black Editors: Andrew Garrod, Janie Victoria Ward, Tracy L. Robinson, Robert Kilkenny Routledge Books

Maroon Arts: Cultural Vitality In the African Diaspora by Sally Price and Richard Price Beacon Press Vital Grace: The Black Male Dancer by Duane Cyrus and Joanne Savio Edition Stemmle / Abbeville Please, Please, Please by Renee Swindle The Dial Press

TITLES TO LOOK FOR

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Chi ldren ’ s Corner
Egyptian Tomb Hidden World by Claude DelaFosse, Illustrated by Sabine Krawczyk Scholastic Books

The Faithful Friend by Robert D. San Souci Illustrated by Brian Pinkney Aladdin Books

Granddaddy’s Street Song by Monalisa DeGross Illustrated by Floyd Cooper Jump At The Sun Books

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Kevin and His Dad by Irene Smalls Illustrated by Michael Hays Little, Brown

Is My Name Magical Sister and Brother Poems by James Berry Illustrated by Shelly Hehenberger Simon and Schuster

Background from the book Isn’t My Name Magical? Simon and Schuster

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The Story of Lightning & Thunder by Ashley Bryan Aladdin Books

My Name Is America The Journal of Joshua Loper A Black Cowboy by Walter Dean Myers Scholastic Books

Mister and Me by Kimberly Willis Holt Putnam Books

Background Illustration from the book Miss Viola and Uncle Ed Lee Atheneum Books
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Chi ldren ’ s Corner
Miss Viola and Uncle Ed Lee by Alice Faye Duncan Illustrated by Catherine Stock Atheneum Books

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5 books of poetry to read this summer

Quiet Storm Voices of Young Black Poets Selected by Lydia Omolola Okutoro Jump At the Sun Books

Tug by G.E. Patterson Graywolf Press

Picnic On the Moon by Charles Coe Leapfrog Press

Promised Land Poems from the Journey by Katriel One Night Publishing

These Hips and other Songs to Minista to a people’s soul by Tonya Maria Matthews BlackWords Inc.

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harlem
writers guild
by Nikki Terry
The ‘20’s and ‘30’s solidified literature during the Harlem Renaissance and now decades later, The Harlem Writers Guild continues to carry the torch. The Harlem Writers Guild is a community of writers dedicated to the continuance of preserving the experience of black people through literature. Members of the Guild collectively provide a wide range of support for people who wish to launch and shape their skill as writers. Beginning in 1950, the Guild was first recognized as The Harlem Writers Club and later became The Harlem Writers Guild. The founding members were Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Rosa Guy, John Oliver Killens and Walter Christmas. Their idea was as bold as it was simple: to create a club that would provide support to black people who could write and wanted to write. Since most of the members lived in Harlem and because Harlem was thriving off of a rich culture, the Guild began in the heart of Harlem. By 1983, it was estimated that members of the Guild had produced more than 400 original

the

P R O F I L E

works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry as well as production for stage and screen. One of these published works was written and self-published by John Henrik Clarke titled, The Boy Who Painted Christ Black. Other published and wellknown members of the Guild are Maya Angelou, Ossie Davis, Audrey Lorde, Terry McMillan, Grace Edwards, Valerie Wilson Wesley, Sarah Elizabeth Wright, and Louise Merriweather, just to name a few. In 1990, the Guild began a television and radio program called “In Our Own Words.” According to William Banks, Chairperson of the Guild, “We have writers such as Grace Edwards and Terri McMillan producing work like this, people ought to see and hear it.” Guest that have appeared on the shows has been Nikki Giovanni, Ishmael Reed, Ntozake Shange, Dick Gregory, Edwidge Danticat and many others. “In Our Own Words” is aired on WNYE Channel 25 and WNYE radio 91.5. In addition to the writing workshop and the television and radio programs, the Guild fosters the needs of writers from different communities and cultural backgrounds with public workshops in New York City and Brooklyn public libraries. The Writers Guild will celebrate its Golden “50th” Anniversary in the year 2000. Part of the celebration will be the release of an anthology of published and non-published writers who have participated with the Guild over the years. The Guild meets at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem on the first Tuesday and third Wednesday of each month. H

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THE WRITE ADVICE

writing groups
DO YOU WANT TO WRITE BUT FEEL YOU NEED SUPPORT? MAYBE A WRITING GROUP IS FOR YOU
by Leah Mullen
It all started about three years ago when a high school friend and I met in Manhattan for a short visit. After hitting all of the tourist spots we sat down to share a meal and to catch up on each other’s lives. During the conversation my friend pulled out an inch thick bound manuscript. It was a collection of poems written by her mother who then lived in Washington State. My friend asked me to take a look at the book and let her mother know what I thought. Shortly thereafter another friend introduced me to a doctor who wanted to get my opinion on a health book he wanted to write. At the time I reminded everyone that I was just an editorial assistant (stressing the last part of my title), but no one seemed to care. What I’ve discovered over the years from working in the publishing industry to now being exclusively a writer myself is that writers, particularly unpublished authors, search high and low for affirmation regarding their work. ”Writing can be a difficult and heartbreaking thing,” says Martin Simmons an instructor at the Frederick Douglas Creative Arts Center in Manhattan. Simmons, who facilitates writing workshops, explained that although the process of writing is usually a solitary effort. It’s just the individual alone with a typewriter or nowadays the computer, no one truly writes in isolation. “You’re around other people all the time who don’t understand; people who wonder why you don’t have a ‘real’ job.” he said. To stay focused, Simmons implores writers to participate in workshops with others who share their passion for the written word. “Other writers understand, and that’s how you keep your sanity.” A workshop can simply be a group of writers who get together regularly to read and critique each other’s

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work. According to Simmons, writing groups are successful when participants are not only interested in becoming better writers themselves, but also want to help others perfect their craft. Simmons, who is co-publisher of a new literary magazine called Anansi, says that it is important for writers to find a ’community of like minded people’ to participate in their writing groups. Otherwise you might get sidetracked into explaining minute details to those with a different frame of reference, all of which will take you away from the ultimate goal, which is to talk about the process of writing. Finding that needed sense of camaraderie is as simple as locating a group of kindred spirits. That’s a relatively easy task if you live in a place like New York City within close proximity to groups like the Harlem Writers Guild and the New Renaissance Writers, but what if you live in a small town like say, Coatesville, PA? Simmons suggests that for those who may not be near the bright literary lights of a major city that the Internet offers boundless opportunities for writers to connect. After conducting a search through cyberspace, I found organizations like the African American Online Writers Guild, www.blackwriters.org, Inkspot/Inklings Writers’ Community Center, www.inkspot.com/ss/iwcc/ transcripts.html and Rhapsody in Black,

www.rhapsodyinblack.com, which offer news, career tips, discussion groups and publishing opportunities for writers online.

BESTSELLERS LISTS

Also professional organizations like Black Women in Publishing, www.bwip.org and events such as the annual Celebration of Black Writing in Philadelphia http://lcweb.loc.gov/loc/cfbook/bkfair/ celblack.html) provide schmoozing opportunities for writers. Simmons also recommends that writers pen letters to one another in the tradition of authors Arna Bontemps and Langston Hughes, who corresponded for more than forty years. (Those letters were preserved and are now available in book form.) A few years ago I participated in an informal writing workshop, and I stay in contact with writers whose work I’ve critiqued. I also send my unpublished writing out to friends to get their feedback. My mother introduced me to my latest writing pal. My new friend is a forensic security guard by day and at night he writes science fiction. We talk about writing via the Internet, and always true to our shared vocation, he signs his letters, “Yours in the written word.” For more information about the Frederick Douglas Creative Arts Center, call (212) 864-3375 or visit them at www.fdcac.org. Summer workshops will begin the week of July 5. H

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Island Rasta mahn’s deep croon The smell of sweat and cheap perfume Lace and satin drawn taunt to breasts Hips in sway, oiled bodies pressed Dimes to nickels, quarters to Dimes Braids to Dreads, drummer keeps Time Babies outta bed to steal a peek Rum punch causin’ draggin’ feet Lips greasin’ on hot curry goat Smokin’ muther earth’s sweet toke Dimes to nickels, quarters to Dimes Braids to Dreads, drummer keeps Time Brother beggin’ hot in her ear Chick’n chased by ginger beer Split tail seeks Rasta’s eye Brown girl wails jealous cry Dimes to nickels, quarters to Dimes Braids to Dreads, drummer keeps Time Belly warmer squeez’d in blouse Members salute roun’ the house Mama pattin’ babe’s behind Caught peekin’ thru the blind

Rent Party
by Rosetta Treece
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Dimes to nickels, quarters to Dimes Braids to Dreads, drummer keeps Time

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VIRTUAL MORALITY
5 0 M O S A I C /

Salvation lies in double-clicked icons traditional belief systems now by-gones relief nowhere to be found unless your spirit is ... IBM compatible virtuous virtues virtually vanish from society now that technology makes things a whole lot easier and more convenient while I admit this poem was typed on WordPerfect... the corruption that can potentially exist in this already imperfect world makes our mastery of technology and more importantly mastery of self and culture more crucial than ever for virtual morality is now our reality... chapters and verses converted to www.’s church houses once led the way now mouses and little arrows take our eyes off the sparrows and into chat-line congregations with fake names kicking fake games and Minister Microsoft taking in billion dollar donations Can the church say Amen? No... can the church say A:drive? All praises due to the new holy trinity bill clinton, bill gates, and billy club hanging on the sides of abusive cops who’s wives must not be giving them any nookie at home but that’s another poem... hard drives driving hard towards minimizing employment no... let’s take it a step further maximizing enjoyment now that men can look to cyber-porn

by Gerren Liles
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for sexual gratification leaving keyboards sticky and unsatisfied mates seeking affection through adulterous engagements then five years later seeking child support payments but there’s that virtual morality women becoming a thing of the past I know brother don’t like the drama they go through for the love, but damn... vast amounts of information at your fingertips World Book and Britannica cannot compete soon making books and libraries obsolete that’s why I order my intellect SUPER-SIZED with a 20 oz. drink to go did somebody say McDonald’s or Macintosh? I don’t know... I navigate across ancestral web-sites through Congo drum modems decoding wisdom of the ancients downloading skill for the maintenance of my people’s survival Behold the arrival of Mandingo’s ‘95 Complete with 360 megabytes retrieving data at a hundredth of a second and has a mean jump shot my mind cannot be stopped only rebooted through future generations cuz’ my salvation lies in me not in virtual morality... I can do all things through He who created all things cuz’ He is all things that was, is and will be

His magnificent words traveled through fiber-optic Coptic temple of old when Microsoft was just Micro and Apple was just a seed reading atomic, astronomical messages more economical messages more economical than dialing 10-321 the sun’s rays, light patterns beaming down orbital movements of Saturn long before Sopho...hypo...aristotlecles whatever his name is... learned his ABC’s which he learned from me black people, WE are technology to the highest degree so until they make a computer that can build pyramids till the soil build nations through sweat and toil create jazz create life create the word “create” give spankings that you’ll remember give birth to saviors in December build 40-day & 40-night, water-proof boats and cook up rice, peas and curry goat... then my morality will come from the love of my history... so screen save your soul put it in a password, or whatever it takes to make certain that silicon curtains don’t hinder your moral vision it’s time to upgrade our minds and our ability to think or progress will never be made and we’ll be virtually extinct...

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NEW VOICES

the prodigal father
AUTHOR OF THE HARRIS MEN, R.M. JOHNSON SITS DOWN TO DISCUSS HIS FIRST NOVEL by India Savage Anderson
R.M. Johnson is as comfortable as your favorite pair of old loafers. His casual and warm manner makes it easy to settle into a conversation, just like your foot settles into a soft, good fitting shoe. It’s not the proverbial “I feel like I’ve known you for a long time” kind of comfort. It’s more like the kind of comfort you feel when you sense that you’re in the company of someone who makes his choices thoughtfully. It is this persona, this thoughtful, simple quality, that is transferred to the pages of his first book, The Harris Men. Johnson takes on a controversial and complex topic, the absentee father in Black America, and presents it in an understanding, insightful and straightforward manner. The Harris Men is a saga about the life struggles and victories of three brothers and their terminally ill father, who has been absent for twenty years. Johnson presents a unique perspective by addressing the impact that father abandonment has upon manhood from both sides of the issue: the abandoned and those who abandon. While his perspective is decidedly male, he does not dismiss the importance of black women. The female characters play significant supporting roles. But make no mistake, it may be a story for women, but it is not about women. His writing of The Harris Men was motivated by both his personal experiences and a larger mission. “There’s not enough books written about African-American males from a positive point of view, or with our point of view period. After reading [some of the popular women’s fiction], I had to write this book.” And write he did. While the book was awhile (Cont. on page 66)

Dorothy Perry

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E X C E R P T

The Harris Men
by R.M. Johnson
Simon and Schuster
Julius Harris is haunted by his decision, twenty years earlier, to leave his wife and sons. Now, diagnosed with terminal cancer, he must face his past decisions and try to reconcile with his grown sons. Julius sprang up in his bed. He was breathing at a frantic rate and was covered with sweat. His pajama top clung to his chest. He looked around in the dark, then smoothed his hand on the area he had been lying in and it was damp with sweat as well. He looked over to see if Cathy had been awakened, but she remained still, sleeping silently. Normally she would have been up by his side questioning him thoroughly, but she had been up with him so many late nights. He was glad that she had not been bothered. Julius looked around the dark room, not knowing for what, maybe for the six-armed, sixlegged monster his sons had become. All he knew was that he was pretty shaken up from the dream. He pulled himself from the bed, feeling a lot weaker than he was accustomed to, and walked through the dark room. He went into his closet, reached up to the top shelf, moved some things around, and felt for the photo. He asked himself what the dream meant. Upon first thought, it was simple. Stay away from your sons. You would do more harm to them than good. But that was something that Julius didn’t want to believe, for if he did, he would never see them again. He could never explain to why he had left, and he would never know if they forgave him for horrible thing he did. In the den he sat on the floor in front of the coffee table. He turned on the small lamp that stood near him and laid his photo on the table. It was a torn, dog-eared snapshot of his sons, taken by one of the earliest Polaroid cameras. He could remember taking the picture, his sons crowding around him waiting for the picture to develop before peeling off the strip of gummy paper. In the photo the three sat together on a bench, Austin and Marcus on the ends, Caleb smiling in the middle. It was winter, so they had on coats, hats, g loves, and rubber boots. Their sled was nearby, and Julius remembered how he took them out afterward, and took turns pushing them down a snow-covered hill. His sons were the dearest thing to him, and he wondered, sitting there in the dark, why he had ever left. He could’ve tolerated whatever it was that was bothering him, he could’ve learned to deal with it, and if he didn’t—tough! You sacrifice things when you get married and have children, that’s what it’s all about. But obviously not for me, he told himself. I couldn’t be in the position where I was expected to give of myself, where people depended on me, where I had to be the provider of almost everything for three children and a wife. “I couldn’t do that,” he told himself aloud. It was the last thing he was capable of back then. It seemed as though he would have rather died than stay another day in that house. But the way he felt now, (Cont. on page 66)

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(Cont from page 33) One shortcoming of the collection is Bordelon’s distracting annotations that precede the essays, short expositions and stories. They interrupt an audience’s literary enjoyment. Interpreting the ideas that imbue Hurston’s wonderful fiction should be left to us. The overall mode of the book supports what appears to be Bordelon’s thesis on Hurston — which, for this reader, held little interest. The text does provide substantial reference material about the writer/folklorist, but if a reader is in search of a serious hit of fiction one is bound to be disappointed. Understandably, Bordelon sympathizes with and honors the wealth of Hurston’s art, so her overzealousness is forgivable. For, as a strategist, Hurston worked it. What rings as capitulation, often gradually reveals itself as a clever deception and survival. Such artifice is a signifying principle what qualifies an African American aesthetic. In Hurston’s essay Other Negro Folklore Influences, she writes, “There is no such thing as a Negro tale which lacks a point… [he is] determined to laugh. His world is dissolved in laughter. His “bossman”, his woman, his preacher, his jailer, his God, and himself, all must be baptized in a stream of laughter.” Many a detractor of the Robert Colesett philosophy would disagree with this premise on the grounds it undermines the “seriousness” of Black Art. Hurston’s statement is to a degree broad but her sensibility is, to a degree, on point, Hurston attests to a life that she understands, which is after all American. “Buffoonery”, or what some call a particular culture’s inclination to parody and then laugh at itself, is not so widely celebrated. Yet throughout her field work, it was a theme that consistently surfaced. She was interested in ceremony and ritual, the beautiful and mythical. All these things are of what great art is made of and what Go Gator asserts is Hurston’s love and conviction as an artist.

The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah
Pocket Books Reviewed by Vatisha Smith

“I never liked Sister Souljah, straight up. She the type of female I’d like to cut in the face with my razor.” How’s that for an opening line? The first page of Sister Souljah’s novel The Coldest Winter Ever is a free-fall into the terrific, fast-paced and tragic world of young Winter Santiaga. Born and raised in Brooklyn during one of the coldest winters of the 1970’s, she gives a play-by-play narration of her life; though not for the faint- hearted, her story manages to have mass appeal. At the heart of Winter is a fierce loyalty to her family, especially to her big-time drug dealer father. Being the daughter of “the number one businessman in our area” instills a strong sense of pride, but from the start, she makes clear she loves his money and the power it wields as well. In fact, Winter’s first 16 years are sheltered and pampered. The good life ranges from diamond earrings and tennis bracelets as birthday presents to eventually moving to a mansion in Long Island. Winter shops for everything from Coach to Prada to Joan & David. But the good life has to end sometime, and end it does. Methodically, things begin to fall apart. First a family member is shot and seriously wounded and another is arrested. The entire Santiaga family becomes endangered, not to mention impoverished, and Winter finds herself having to fight, sweet-talk, and manipulate in order to survive. At first she seems to hold her own, even managing to keep up with her expensive tastes. There are some people in her life who even reach out to show her the righteous path, but eventually things come to a head and even Winter can’t believe her own fate. Winter’s intense need and drive to attain material items, the breakdown of her family structure, and her rampant disrespect for fellow human beings are symbolic of what many in the hip

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hop generation are dealing with and going through. The Coldest Winter Ever gives an inside view of an HIV-positive, crack-smoking, Land Rover-driving society and hopefully, it will instill fear.

The Harris Men By R.M. Johnson

Simon & Schuster Reviewed by Craig S. Knight In an age when fatherhood and family are fleeting concepts, R.M. Johnson’s The Harris Men almost seems cliché. Ultimately, however, Johnson proves that the key to a good story is in its telling. The portrayal of three sons’ lives after being abandoned by their father is a sad yet accurate commentary on society’s issues with family as it faces the new millennium. Set in modern day Chicago, the story portrays three brothers – Caleb, Austin and Marcus – who were abandoned by their father, Julius, when they were very young and chronicles how their lives are impacted by his departure. Austin, the eldest, faces abandonment issues and struggles at the crossroads of his relationship with his wife, Trace. Marcus, the middle son, grapples with his fear of losing the people closest to him and desperately tries to keep his family together when his mother dies shortly after Julius leaves. Caleb, the youngest, also faces the arduous task of keeping his family in tact as he struggles with the daily challenge of living a life devoid of formal education. Caleb also attempts to avoid the various snares set for young black men in his environment. And as his sons face their future, Julius realizes he must somehow make amends to them after he is diagnosed with cancer and given two years to live. The Harris Men’s strength is in its honesty, which speaks volumes to readers who, in some way, shape, or form, carry the baggage of struggles with family. Structurally, the book is reminiscent of Gloria Naylor’s The Women of

Brewster Place and Terri McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale. Each chapter focuses on a single character and manages to weave separate perspectives into one large tapestry. However, Johnson’s use of this device could have been more effective if he had focused more on each character’s psyche in relation to the events that occur. Instead, he focuses more on the events themselves and renders his characters less dimensional. Nevertheless, The Harris Men is refreshing merely because it is told from an African-American male’s perspective at a time when AfricanAmerican women write stories mostly about familial bonds. The book also takes a critically honest stance that should set the standard for other books to come.

Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison

Random House Reviewed by Gayle Williamson Juneteenth, Ralph Ellison’s posthumously published novel, can be described in one word: intricate. Ellison weaves an interesting jazz/blues tapestry that attempts to define, and at the same time dispel, the myth of language and race in determining the humanity of a single individual or community. The story of Reverend Bliss/Senator Sunraider is told in a series of stream of consciousness memories as the reverend recalls, with the help of Reverend A.Z. (Daddy) Hickman, the events which led up to Reverend Bliss’ heading out in the midst of one Juneteenth celebration to define himself. When Juneteenth begins, Daddy Hickman has traveled from Oklahoma to warn the former Reverend Bliss, who has become race-baiting Senator Sunraider, of impending doom. Because Senator Sunraider has denied the only heritage he knows – African American – Daddy Hickman cannot get in to see him. Once the prophecy is carried out, u

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and Senator Sunraider is shot on the floor of the Senate, he calls for Reverend Hickman and the two men piece together the senator’s life. As the life to which he has subjected the young Reverend Bliss unfolds, we are never sure if Daddy Hickman has done the right thing or not (his religious status notwithstanding). In their traveling sermon, he requires the boy to deceive the congregation by playing dead until just the right moment and then orchestrates a resurrection that is guaranteed to bring sinners to the ways of the righteous. The boy’s life is carefully regulated and he clearly misses the typical boyhood fun he sees going on around him. It is clear though, from the older reverend’s story, that all intentions are honorable. Much about this novel is different from Ellison’s landmark, Invisible Man. While there are elements of blues and jazz resonating throughout the language and themes, this story takes more risks than the former. Memories stop and start and flow together creating a daring narrative that is, at times, difficult to sift through with its shape-shifting, stream of consciousness style. It is a complicated novel with complex characters that, as in real life, find the line between truth and reality an awkward one. Moments of the Senator’s lucidity are often confused by the alternating narrators. Both Reverend Hickman and Senator Sunraider have their say about their history, however, once Ellison establishes rhythm, the story flows smoothly and re-

minds us why his voice is so important to black literature.

When Chickenheads Come Home To Roost My Life As a Hip-hop Feminist by Joan Morgan
Simon & Schuster Reviewed by Lynne d. Johnson

Hip-hop has intrinsically woven itself into the fabric of Americana. The culture, music, icons, and players have graced the covers of New York, The New York Times Magazine, Forbes and Time among others. Much has been written about who produces and creates the music, fashion, movies and videos, yet there remains a dearth of serious writing by women about the gender politics surrounding hip-hop. Although a smattering of essays have appeared in journals, magazines, and anthologies, they tend to skirt around the fringes, steering clear of the complex issues that engulf hip-hop music and culture. Women who have written about the subject have focused on easier targets such as the misogyny of male rappers and sexually-charged, scantily-clothed female rappers. When it comes to provocative discourse about hip-hop in its entirety, it is the male writer who usually handles the task. In 1994, Tricia Rose’s Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Con(Cont. on page 58)

a visible man: Ralph Ellison was born on March 1, 1914 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. From 1933 to 1936 he attended Tuskegee Institute in pursuit of a career in music but eventually turned his attention to the written word. It was, however, his knowledge and love of music that made the language of his texts so rich and the structure of his writing so lyrical. He moved to New York City in 1936 and contributed to magazines such as New Challenge and New Masses. Later he worked with the Federal Writers Project. During this period, he began to develop an ear for black speech patterns and in 1952 published the novel of inevitable self-awareness, Invisible Man. The novel received tremendous critical acclaim and won the National Book Award in 1953. In 1970 Ellison became the Albert Schweitzer Professor of Humanities at New York University. In his lifetime he published two collections of critical essays, Shadow and Act (1964) and Gong to the Territory (1986) which cover everything from music to politics. His short stories remain uncollected. Ralph Ellison died on April 16, 1994.

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crossword puzzle
ACROSS 1 Features the singer “Left Eye” 4 It’s capital is Bamako 8 “We wear the mask that grins and ____” 12 Part of verb to be 13 Respect Redding 14 Musical instrument 15 Not good 16 Small dabbling duck 17 McClendon (1884-1936) 18 Achebe’s “Things Fall _____” 20 Ishmael (1938- ) 22 Long period of time 24 Arrive at 28 (1918-1996) The “First” Lady of Jazz 31 Deavere Smith (1950-) 34 Hawaiian acacia 35 “Oh Mary, don’t you ____” 36 Born 37 Aromatic fragrance 38 Even (poet.) 39 Swahili You (singular) 40 Singles 41 Cylindrical larva 43 Naylor’s “Mama” 45 Swahili One 48 Muhammad Toure (1938- ) 52 First name for a “Bird” or U.S. Poet Laureate 55 A person that uses 57 Eldridge puts SOUL on this 58 He knows they came before Columbus 59 Charles I. (1956- ) 60 Sound of a cow 61 Hindu mother goddess 62 Acquire through merit 63 Shockley - Author of 1974 “Loving Her” DOWN 1 Swahili Seven 2 Enclose in paper 3 The sacred scriptures of Hinduism 4 Langston Hughes (1902-1967) 5 Consumed 6 Person who lies 7 Small island 8 Contributed to Black Feminist, Lesbian thought 9 Tribe, West African Coast during period of Slave Trade 10 Greek goddess of the dawn 11 ___ See Rider 19 Countee Cullen: “We shall not always plant while others ___”

21 NAACP publishes “Woman’s ____” (1894) 23 Swahili Eight 25 Spoken in Ghana and Ivory Coast 26 First AA Female Medical Doctor 27 Poor actors 28 Pitcher 29 Meadows, Host WPON’s “The Book Beat” Radio Show 30 Grant temporary use of 32 Alain Locke (1886-1954) Wrote about this kind of Negro 33 Requirement 37 1931 “Scottsboro ______” 39 Swahili They 42 Faith 44 Hank with a bat 46 Jordan (1936-) 47 Seaward 49 Swahili Monkey 50 Image 51 Great age 52 To free 53 I have 54 23rd letter of the Hebrew alphabet 56 Sin

Crossword puzzle provided by Troy Johnson/www.aalbc.com

Answers on page 61

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(Reviews: cont. from page 56) temporary America made a significant contribution, setting the stage for women writers to pick up their pens and sit down to some serious writing. Readers are still waiting. Joan Morgan’s When Chickenheads Come Home To Roost...my life as a hip-hop feminist was positioned as a pillar on which other women writers could stand upon. That ain’t necessarily so. At best, Morgan’s book serves as a personal exploration of self evolution. It is one black woman coming to terms with her politics, spirituality and identity. As a self-defined feminist coming of age alongside hiphop music and culture, Morgan bluntly asks, “And how come no one ever admits that part of the reason women love hiphop— as sexist as it is — is ‘cuz all that in-yo-face testosterone makes our nipples hard?” In the chapter “from fly-girls to bitches and hos,” Morgan writes hip-hop a letter declaring their love affair a complicated abusive relationship that plays a critical role in defining her feminism and is necessary to the survival of her community. In these personal moments, Morgan writes poetically and passionately about race, gender and sexism. Her essays mostly explore her relationship with herself, black men, hip-hop and America. From this solitary, cathartic place, she reaches out for black men and women to get real with themselves. A hip-hop manifesto the book is not. It is clear, candid and solid writing that explores the personal in such a way that it becomes general. Morgan expresses herself genuinely and authentically, articulating her experiences, contradictions, and self-doubts — at times she is even able to laugh at herself. This technique implores empathy, guiding the reader on a journey of exploring and checking one’s self.

The Big Banana by Roberto Quesada
Arte Publico Press Reviewed by Donna Hill

With locales in Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan, The Big Banana chronicles the life and times of Honduran immigrant and would-be actor Eduardo Lin, along with his odd assortment of associates and love interests. Eduardo tries to get his life on track and launch his career, while maintaining a long-distance relationship with Mirian, who at the opening of the story is obsessed with secret agent 007, James Bond. Through a series of flashbacks, flights of fancy and shifts in viewpoint, the reader is finally able to piece together this very eccentric relationship and plot line. At the center of Eduardo’s new life is his Chilean friend Casagrande, who has a magical way of getting what he wants with little or no effort which makes him quite memorable. Casagrande and Eduardo’s eclectic group of friends who inhabit the apartment complex where he lives, offer a view of several Latin cultures – Central and South American, Chilean and Honduran – and their thoughts about “the gringos,” and each other. As Eduardo moves from one part of New York City to another, from one low-paying job to the next, the reader is taken on fantasy rides as Eduardo encounters people and situations that spark his overactive imagination and launch him into “the role of a lifetime.” In the midst of it all, the love relationship between Eduardo and Mirian continues to ebb and flow as they are caught in the peculiarities of their own lives; his wild imaginings and her struggle with controlling parents and a bizarre relationship with the psychiatrist who is trying to rid her of her James Bond obsession. Sometimes humorous, often confusing, The Big Banana is, for the most part, entertaining. In many ways it is a Latino version of The Wizard of Oz with Eduardo cast as Dorothy on a search for self and hoping to find it in the people met along the way. Ulti(Cont. on page 69)

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P O E M no, she ain’t never been down here or hear the silent screams of a mother losing her son because someone thought to stop his breath would be fun ain’t never been blamed for being the majority on public aid when it’s not her people abusin’ the system anyway she ain’t never come to experience Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni or Maya Angelou Otis Redding, Donnie Hathaway, or even Marvin Gaye never felt the rich, cultural experience that emits from our minds, bodies, and souls never danced a jig at the jukejoint flowed a rhyme or two, caught the Holy Ghost on Sundays ate a peppermint in a pickle, or had a meal of Soul Food: no chitterlings, hamhocks, or greens with generous spices and seasonings tempting taste-buds to feed she ain’t never been told to imagine is outside the realm of her person, never been told dreams cannot be hers never been made to feel she can’t walk with her head held high thought nothing is more beautiful than black love and black pride no, she ain’t ever been this way and I doubt she’ll be here soon I cannot trade her world for mine because my dreams I refuse to toss aside. No tell her to stay wherever she may be to let us fulfill our own wishes, hopes, and dreams a passion so fierce a unity so strong, give our children the griots and let their heroes remain their own. provide a heritage, and they find who they are develop a sense of purpose and leaders they become. Cinderella ain’t never been here and tell her we don’t need her we’re holding our own now” stunning, black, and proud.

Cinderella ain’t been here

by C. Candice Rigdon
see I was sittin’ around the other day just sittin’ and I was thinkin’ ‘bout these so pronounced fairy tales that ain’t never been no dreams of mine with what all this talk about long with gown, chariots, luxurious frills, and prince charming? naw, Cinderella ain’t never been here. I ain’t never seen no glass slippers, been to no balls, trounced barefoot through the forest, the stars at my feet, Cinderella, she got a fairy godmother to grant her every need and fulfill her every wish but she’s never come around here, experienced what my heart feels. see fairy godmother and this so-called mother nature thought they’d get together a play a cruel trick what with these corn bread hips and thick, sensuous lips but don’t I look good as I sashay across the room? looks like I got the last laugh with my chocolate prince in tow nappy hair, elated glow

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(Hieroglyphics: cont. from page 35) generalizations, utter hip clichés as though they were timeless wisdom, and inevitably offer instant snapshots of the social facade as though they were in-depth investigations of the structure and nature of our social reality — in short, we lie and fantasize. Moreover, unless we consciously deal with our conditions, we end up replicating our oppression in our literature. When we are poor we write admiringly of being rich — when we get some money, we write guiltily about poverty. What is this madness? This is the psychology of the oppressed captivated by their own oppression. If this analysis sounds extreme, run the litmus test of examining works of popular literature and see if this is not the case. Look at the rap videos, notice the lifestyles portrayed. Look at the movies. At some point, we need to be aware that videos, movies, televisions, all of those media employ scripts — these scripts are our popular literature. The absence and/or low level of craft in popular literature, both in publishing and in electronic, broadcast and video mediums, points to one of our real problems — many of the people who are scripting for the media, can’t or don’t write well. Moreover, I understand that the majority of scriptwriters for Black-oriented projects are not Black writers, however, the lack of Black writers in the dominant and dominating mainstream media underscores rather than invalidates my premise. A major part of our problem has nothing to do with craft and everything to do with consciousness — our consciousness and the consciousness of our fellow humans in the United States of America. Our daily lives are shaped by our social conditions and the consciousness that emerges from those conditions. A significant percentage of writers who are craft conscious are also writers who are psychologically alienated from their own culture. Indeed, for the person of color, the act of

acquiring education and expertise typically is also an act of alienation. It is unfortunately generally true that mainstream training in craft is simultaneously a directive to distance one’s self from the culture and consciousness of our Black communities. Explicitly, to become professional means to emulate the other and eschew the Black self, the working class self, and, for women, to an even greater degree than many may realize, becoming a professional also means eschewing the self-actualized female self. Thus, it is no surprise that once we become professionals, we insist on the right to be seen as autonomous and self-defined individuals who desire to live beyond the restrictions of race, class and/or gender. Indeed, we are often proud as peacocks strutting around glorying in our individuality — look at the beauty of my butt feathers! We disdain groups, assert that organizations stifle our creativity. Meanwhile, people who are organized control the production and distribution of our creative work. The status quo system loves those of us who think we can make it as individuals precisely because individuals are dependent on the status quo for life support. When you don’t have a community of friends and comrades, you end up going to your enemy for supper and shelter, both literally and metaphorically. The challenge for conscious and self-identified writers is both external and internal. External to the individual, we must build community by working with and achieving an understanding of the people with whom we identify. Internally there is the individual quest to develop a craft that reflects and projects our individual feelings and ideas about ourselves as well as about the world we live in. This struggle for social and artistic development is not an abstract concern. In practical terms such development requires that we who identify ourselves as Black writers:

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1. Study Black music and Black history. Music because Black music is our mother tongue — the language through which the deepest and most honest emotions of our people have been expressed in the rawest and most “unmediated” manner. More than in any other sphere of social activity, African Americans have determined our own musical expressions and have communicated with the world through that form of expression. History because if you don’t know yourself you will inevitably end up betraying yourself. Is it possible to write without a working knowledge of Black music and history? Of course it is. Is it possible to produce great literature without such knowledge? Probably not, and certainly none that would be considered Black literature. Ultimately, all literature is a product of culture, whether that culture is one’s indigenous culture or an adopted culture. 2. Study the craft of writing. One certainly would not claim to be a carpenter without learning how to build, nor a farmer and be unable to raise crops. Moreover, we also need to tackle the development of our own approaches and the development of a theoretical foundation. During the Black Arts Movement, this process was called the Black aesthetic — the development of an aesthetic is still needed. Craft is the concrete manifestation of philosophical aesthetics. If we don’t consciously shape our own aesthetics, our craft will invariably and often in a contradictory and conflicted manner reflect someone else’s aesthetic, generally the aesthetics of the dominant social order. 3. Join with like-minded colleagues. We should join writers associations, guilds, and organizations, both formal and informal. Workshops are important in one’s formative years. As one develops, peer associations become extremely helpful both in terms of career development and

in terms of craft development. We literally find out what’s going on by being in touch with others. We become inspired and get ideas from interacting with others. The Internet is a major source of community activity for young writers today. There are on-line workshops, resource web sites, informational web sites and specifically, a number of Black oriented literary web sites. A young writer who is not on-line is literally “out of it” — outside of the ebb and flow of ideas and information. With the advent of public access through libraries, arts organizations, schools, and relatively inexpensive commercial services, there is no excuse for not being on-line. Writing is not just the words on the page. Writing is documentation of social praxis. There is both an art and a science to writing, a feeling and a thought. Not only is no writer an island, it is up to each one of us to develop as social creatures (i.e. men and women) and as professionals. For our ancestors, for our selves, for our children and those yet unborn, let us as writers come together and create a literature that is as persistent and profound as our people who outlived centuries of chattel slavery, segregation and degradation, and who stand now on the verge of creating a new definition of what it means to be a free, proud and productive people. H CROSSWORD PUZZLE ANSWERS

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(The River: cont. from page 21) he continues. I have cleaned her yard all year ‘round. Have you? She asks about you, Papi. She’s a nice lady. But, why does she always asks about you? —I stop tying my tie—I don’t know, I say. I hardly know the woman. But, get to the kitchen, boy. Your mother’s calling you. Will you get the shoes? I’ll get the shoes. You will not forget, Papi. Will you? I will not forget. I am trying to remember how I forgot. I think it was the dress. The one Sandra begged me for. Yellow with blue flowers. You will buy it for me in America, Pablo, she asked. No? Then she touched her hips to mine. When I was in Miami the boy was still alive. I was on business and forgot the shoes. He was standing in the doorway when I came home. The maid took my bags. The boy was eating a hamburger with his mother was behind him. The shoes, papi? No shoes? I forgot, I say. I do not know how—My Sonia was there, staring at me. She had eyes like him, very sad eyes. Mi corazon, I always called her, and how often she would smile. But, on that day, when I forgot the boys shoes, when it was two weeks before Christmas, and I had just arrived from Miami, she did not smile. Mi corazon, I said touching her face, while the boy was still between us, a burger in his hand, and heat in her cheeks. You smell of perfume, she whispered, and stepped back. It is nothing, I explained. Only Mrs. Panera. She is an old woman. She hugs me when she sees me. She smells of this perfume. You did not bring the boy anything, Pablo? I will get him the shoes, Sonia. He did not want them from here, Pablo. Woman, what difference does it make? What difference? He is your son! He wanted Americano.

I sent the boy away, ready. A woman does not speak to a man like that. I opened my hand, palms up. Woman—I hissed, but there was already spit in her throat. If you would not worry what to get Sandra Garcia, she cried, maybe you’d have remember to get the boy something. She looks at me. My wife, with bitter eyes. My nakedness shows. I have no words. I am mad at her for knowing about me and Sandra. So I hit her. Palms up. Who told her such things? I am the man of the house. It is not her place to question me. She is only a woman. Again I hit her, and see the maid shoo the children away. When the children are gone, my Sonia breaks. “You don’t know how to love,” she yells. “You don’t know how to love.” I grab at her hair and hit her again. Harder. Right between her lip and nose. Blood comes down. Palms closed. And then I see the child, there beside her. My little Clara, standing in the shadow of her mother. Her eyes are wide and curious. Eyes that burn. Eyes that question. You don’t know how to love. I let go of Sonia. It is a hot day. My voice is caught in my throat. I cannot speak. Clara has her mother’s face. She is humming. She is at the table with Juan-Reyes and the baby. They want me to eat American food. Apple pie and a hamburger. I do not want to eat. Papi, Clara exclaims, her eyes glaring at me. You are too thin. Clara is a woman. She has a fork in her hand. I think she wants to hurt me. She has said I’ve kept her here. Against her will. I’ve told her, if you leave me I will be an old man by himself. And what is in America, that is not here? You will not be alone, Clara always says. You will have Laya. Who is Laya? I ask. She is a servant. Young and stupid. I think she is a thief, too. I do not confess the rest: that the servant girl will lay with me if she leaves. If Clara leaves, I will touch the child and Clara will hate me more. Laya will have my baby. Her stomach will swell.

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Then she will ask for money, and I will hand it over. Eat, Papi, Clara says a third time at the dinner. You drive me crazy when you sit there. Eat. I cannot eat, I say. I must remember to keep his room. In case he comes home. In case who comes? She asks. Victor, I say. Clara is silent for a long spell. He might be traveling, I explain. Papi, stop. He might be in the states. He might come back later. He will never come home, old man! Stop it! Traveling, I repeat. That is why I have kept his room all these years. In case he comes back. At this Clara bursts. Shut up, papi, she yells. You are old now. And stupid. He will never come home. Do you hear me? He is gone. The boy is not gone, I say. It is my house you are in, and I am your father. She has a fork in her hand, like she wants to hurt me. The boy will never come back, papi. You left him, remember? You never picked him up. —shhhhh—says Juan-Reyes. Shhhhh—— But, that’s the funny part, ha, ha, ha. Everyone dies in this house. Mama dies. Victor dies. So long as I’m here, I die, too. But , not Papi. Papi, lives. Ha, ha, ha. Old man, that I could throw you into the river, along with the other bodies no one finds. That is my wish. And she spits. There in my face. Spit that has been in her mother’s throat fifteen years. Clara is a woman, now. She should not do such things. I am her father. I want Juan-Reyes to hit her for me, in the softness of her mouth. I want Juan Reyes to do this one thing, because he is supposed to my son. Victor would’ve done it. Victor would’ve hit her for me, because I have kept his room. I would have shown the boy how to be a man. But, Juan-Reyes will not do it. He is stub-

born. He wants to go to America. He says when he goes, Clara must go with him. Clara must be free. Clara is free, I say. What does he know? Juan-Reyes is a boy. He is not the money behind this family. I am the money behind this family. I have taken care of us. I have kept the boy’s room. If the boy should ever come back I will say, see, I have taken care of your toys. Clara did not take care of your toys, Victor, because she thought you were dead. But, I knew the truth. I knew you were traveling. The boy will be proud of me. And I will tell him the rest: I will explain that I looked in the river. Four months after you disappeared; after the police found your clothes, and gave up on you. But, I never gave up. I bought the shoes you wanted, Victor, and placed them at the foot of your bed. They’re your Christmas present. They have been there ever since. This time, I did not forget. The police forgot. They said it was hopeless. But, I did not. We have his clothes, Senoir Varacuza, they said. But, not the body. We must find him, I said, and offered dinero. He is a small thing. He looks seven. Maybe eight. He is ten. He is probably hungry. He eats very much. He will want potato chips and ice cream. He will be scared. Sir, they repeated. We have his clothes. There are blood stains on his clothes. There are tears on his clothes. But, we have no body. Your mother wept for you, Victor, after you’d gone. Her hair fell out and she would not let me touch her. She waited five years for you, but you did not come. When five years passed, her heart gave out and Clara and I were alone. Where have you been, Victor? All this time? They say I left you, my son. It is not true. I am sorry. I am a stubborn man. I did not mean to forget. u

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They say I was to pick you up from school that day, but I forgot, and you walked home. That was the day you disappeared. We weren’t prepared for it. And neither were you. It does not feel like fifteen years since the boy left. It is midnight now. Dinner is ended and I am alone in my room. I am an old man. Clara and Juan-Reyes are angry with me. They say I am stubborn. They say I’ve lost my mind. I must remember to breathe. I must remember to never pass the home of Sandra Garcia again. It is midnight. Clara sneaks softly into my room. The baby has been put to sleep. Clara says she is glad I am in my own bed. I can see her face glow from the moonlight. She has something to tell me, she says. She is sorry for yelling. She is sorry for her behavior this evening. She is also sorry because she is leaving. I say nothing. I do not understand. I do not want to understand. I am lying in the dark, staring at the ceiling. I am in my house. It is a big house. I have sweat tears and blood for this house. I have bled the fingers of my own people for this house. Clara waits. She wants me to answer. She wants me to hurt. But I know the truth. I know that when she leaves the servant girl will come for me. She will sneak into my room on a night when her breath is soft and her body is perfumed, and I will give her a baby. She will ask for money and I will not refuse her. I will give her the money, and wait for Victor to come home. I will buy anything for Laya, until the boy comes. Anything at all. Except clothes. I have bought the yellow dress already, with blue flowers and will never pay such a heavy price again. Papi, did you hear me? Clara asks suddenly. It is midnight. The moon is strong. Clara’s eyes are upon me. I can feel her waiting. She is a smart girl, standing in the shadow of her mother. Bitter. Mi corazon. I did everything I could, I speak suddenly. I loved the boy, Clara. He was your brother. He was my son. I am sorry I forgot. Clara sighs. She is tired. So tired. Papi, she says. We are leaving because it is

time. We have had enough. Of this house. Of these memories. Juan-Reyes wants to go to America. Then let him go, I say. Where he goes, Papi. I go. I hesitate. I want to cry, but not in front of a woman. I loved your brother, I speak again, but Clara has no words. I loved your mother, I insist. I did not tell you all this before, and I am sorry. But, I am telling you now. Can you hear me? I hear you, Papi. You are my heart, Clara. Goodnight, Papi. Will you stay? Mi corazon? She turns on her heels and leaves, shutting the door behind her. I cry now. I am not in the boy’s room. I am in my own room. The boy’s room is down the hall. I have kept his shoes for him. Neatly beside his bed. In case he is traveling. When my daughter moves to the states, she will take her husband with her, and JuanReyes will not eat my food anymore. Victor is probably handsome like Juan-Reyes. I will not be alone when they leave. I will have my memories. I will remember to never pass the home of Sandra Garcia again, though she asks about the boy. She asks because she lay with me while my boy was dying. She lay with me, and I lied to her. I had no plans to leave Sonia. A man is a man by the family he has built. In the morning I will go to confession. I will speak only with Padre Martinez. I will tell him that I am old, and he will have pity. I will tell him my Clara has gone to America. I will not confess to him that the servant girl keeps opening her shirt for me. If I do, he will send her away, and she will never come to my room again. It is midnight. I am an old man. I have to remember to breathe. I must remember to never check the river. If I do not check the river, then the boy is only traveling, and I can keep his room ready for him. His shoes are beside his bed. The ones he wanted for Christmas. I will not forget them, ever again. H

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(Loida Maritza Perez: cont. from page 26) protagonist…but Iliana was an add-on.” This is no surprise, as Maritza has extraordinary narrative talent. It is this talent that shines when the story moves less smoothly as what is conventionally required for novels. This leads the conversation to her background as a writer, “I’d been writing short stories for ten years,” she says. “They’d been turned down by the best and worst literary magazines…that freed me to write about whatever I wanted.” Once this happened, Pérez says, Geographies came together. The novel is far from typical in many ways, including the lack of resolution at the end. Maritza says this was “absolutely intentional. I kind of stuck to my guns with the editors. I didn’t want to provide easy answers. Actually, I didn’t want to provide any answers. I’m interested in sparking a dialogue, not providing answers…they’ll live happily ever after, that’s not the way life is.” The reader is left to draw many of his or her own conclusions after reading Geographies. “I wanted the reading of my novel to be as disconcerting as the lives of the characters.” “History is an authoritative voice that presents a path.” The author believes it’s up to the readers to determine the validity of such a path. “We come from a culture where our history is so complex…slavery, dictatorships…life is surreal. Coming to America is surreal.” She notes that Dominicans “don’t see their lives reflected anywhere” in popular culture, thus compounding the challenges of emigrating. ”Most immigrants have a fierce sense of pride…they buy into the ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ idea…” Geographies suggests, among other things, that the process isn’t always so simple. When asked about her future work, Maritza once again laughs. “Right now nothing, my computer just committed suicide!” She would only say her second novel is based in the Dominican Republic, and will explore issues of race as well as relationships. Ms. Perez is, without question, one to watch; whatever her next work is, she’ll certainly be around for a long time. H

(Stacyann Chin: cont. from page 24) other poems written only a month ago becoming her old work, Stacyann preformed to much acclaim. In a short period of time she has amassed many achievements, including 1998 Lambda Slam champion, 1998 Slam This! champion, a contestant on “Showtime at the Apollo,” 1999 runnerup for Outrights National Poetry Slam, 1999 winner of People of Color Slam, 1999 winner of Urbana’s Final Slam, and a finalist for the 1999 Grand Slam Finals at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. She is a frequent guest on both WBAI and WHCR radio stations and spends many evenings sharing her work with students at various universities around the country including Amherst College, Brooklyn College, Columbia University, New York University, Pace University, New Hampshire University, The University of Rochester and the University of Miami. Staceyann’s work has been featured in Black Track newspaper, Mosaic, Shades newsletter, Everybody magazine, New York Foundation for the Arts newsletter, and FYI among others. Her poetry can also be found in the anthology Skyscrapers, Taxis, and Tampons, which contains the writings of seven young New York women. Wildcat Woman, her chapbook, can be purchased at any of the venues she performs. A complete collection of her poetry will be published by Fly By Night Publishers in association with Genesis Press in early 2000. Make it a point to see Staceyann perform as well as purchase her work, you will not be disappointed. Hard work and dedication has prevailed in Staceyann’s success and she passes this on to all future and present poets, “For your work to be good it has to be honest. Be yourself because anyone can tell the difference between being sincere and contrite. You also have to be willing to die for every word you write. Listen, read and appreciate what other writers have to offer. Also talk with writers and get their handle, and after all of that, foremost and very importantly, believe in yourself.” H

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(No Time To Die: cont. from page 11) The small crowd that had gathered when the limo pulled up followed in her wake. All except James, who had been standing directly behind me. When I turned, I nearly tripped but he did not move. He stared, playing the childish street game of waiting for me to move around him. I knew the rules: moving around meant backing down. I felt the bile rise at the back of my throat and did not move but gave him eye for eye. Up close, his skin was like broken stone and he was wrapped in the odor of stale alcohol. No wonder the Dollar Sign Sister had turned away. I imagined vapors strong enough to light a candle when he’d opened his mouth. “Step off, James. You know I don’t play.” “Neither do I,” he whispered. “I peeped what went down. You talkin’ to that bitch in there.” ”What bitch? Nobody introduced me to your mama. He stepped back, his eyes narrowing into one of those taut Freddy Krueger nightmare stares, and began to circle me. I stood my ground, feeling my blood pump hard as I went into a slight crouch. I had on my size 10 hoochie heels, just out the box, and intended to aim and hit what Marie had missed with that hot oil. The standoff might have lasted until the bar closed, but someone, a cohort in as bad a shape as James, came rushing out. “Man, they poppin’ free champagne! Free! And they got free food! What you doin’ out here?” James turned, but before he walked, he whispered, “when you was on the force, you was big and bad with backup. It ain’t that way no more. You be hearin’ from me. “It’s not about the force and you know it, James.” “Whatever. But you’ll be hearin’ from me.” “And I’ll be ready,” I called after his retreating back. H
Copyright © 1999 by Grace Edwards From the book NO TIME TO DIE, published by Doubleday, a division of Random House All rights reserved.

(R.M. Johnson: cont. from page 52) in the making through his thoughts and dreams, it took him a mere 5 months to transform his concept into a novel. “E. Lynn [Harris - author, friend and mentor], told me that people want to hear that it took me a long time to write the book...that I had it for years up in the attic.” The truth is that Johnson is shaping up to be a prolific novelist. His soon-to-be published latest book, Father Found, took just one month more than his first to write. Johnson has made a few side-trips on his literary journey : US Army, college, and the profession of radiation therapy. But it looks like he’s here for the duration. Good news for his readers. H

(The Harris Men: cont. from page 53) he would give up all that he had lived over the last twenty or 50 years, just to be given the opportunity to have never left his family. Then again, that wouldn’t be fair to Cathy. He loved her with all his heart, and thinking what he had just thought made it seem as though he would trade her as easily. That wasn’t true, at least he didn’t think it was. He grabbed the picture and brought it very close to his face. He didn’t know what he thought. It was torture to think about it at all. There was no way he could go back and change what had happened, d it was foolish to question his judgment now. He did what was best him then, and that was all he could’ve done. He stared at the picture some more in the dim light, and felt himself dizzy. He was weak and shouldn’t be out on the cold floor He touched the picture with his finger and traced a line around each one of their faces, then brought it to his lips and kissed it. “I’ll see you again.” H

Copyright © 1999 by R.M. Johnson From the book THE HARRIS MEN, published by Simon and Schuster All rights reserved.

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(Colin Channer: cont from page 23) colonialist educational system in Jamaica did not encourage creative endeavors such as writing. Although the study of classic European literature was an integral part of the school curriculum; even more so than in America; the Jamaican school system instead, placed a heavy emphasis on vocational learning. To that end, writing was not viewed as a practicable trade, but rather as a frivolous pursuit. At a loss for role models, Channer found the inspiration he needed in reggae music. A self-described “Reggae-Writer”, Channer explained to me that reggae is still quite young in the in terms of world music, in fact, only 25 years old. It is “uniquely narrative” and indigenous to the Jamaican people. “Reggae”, says Channer, “is improvisational and possesses a broad emotional range. Entwining the political, spiritual and sexual, reggae forms a multifaceted story, while maintaining a groove that anybody can surrender itself to. ” Channer applies the same formula to his writing to create rhythm, purpose and plot, without sacrificing entertainment value. Waiting in Vain is emotional, erotic, and yes, entertaining. But dare I call it a romance? So what if it contains the key elements essential to good romantic fiction: A man , A woman, A love gone, A love gone wrong, etc.? “Waiting is a love story”, according to Colin, “romance is dime store fiction.” I stand (politely) corrected. Synonyms aside, love stories and/or the romance genre traditionally have an overwhelmingly female audience. Channer denies writing Waiting with the narrow intention of simply capturing his share of the market. “Fire”, the protagonist of Waiting , is: creative, financially secure, unattached, emotionally intact, and get this -- seeking the love of only one woman. The few flaws Fire possesses are apparent only in his desire to be a friend, saviour and soulmate-in -waiting to those he holds dear. If Fire was not created to fit the idealistic fantasies of the female masses, then why? Channer sees Fire as a kind of “role model to which Black men can aspire”. According to

Channer, Fire is not just another literary manifestation of popular female fantasy - a dreadlocked, sepia toned prince charming. Those attributes, Channer claims, are “incidental” to the story. Fire does, however, represent what the Blackman can be, and in fact, what he is. Fire possesses the “Vision and values for black male behavior”. I joked with Channer that if there are “Fire’s” out there, they are few and living in seclusion! So who is “Fire”? Channer modestly admits that in some ways author and character are one, and do share some “borrowed elements”. To what extent he would not divulge and deemed that bit of information a “trade secret”. “Sylvia”, “Fire’s” love interest, was created with a different purpose in mind. Sylvia is Channer’s response to the recent “black male revenge” literature that has cropped up in recent years. Tired of reading about the trifling, dishonest and materialistic woman of black fiction, Channer‘s response comes in the form of Sylvia, a first generation professional woman (as many of us are) who is not out to get, so much as she is to protect and maintain. Channer believes that this is the case with many black women, rather than going along with the common negative male opinion that women are out to protect their own while taking all that they can from gullible men. “Sylvia’s poor background (made worse by neglect and abuse) makes her success and accomplishments that much more precious; thus making her cautious (and rightfully so) about whom she allows into her life.” Channer presents a provocative question to his male audience, “Is it so wrong that a first generation professional woman ask that a brother hold up his end?” I asked Channer if anyone, served as a model for Sylvia’s character. He replied, “No one. Straight from my imagination!” That would explain Sylvia’s ability to achieve an orgasm, at her desk, during the middle of the day! Hmmm. Interesting. For Channer, getting Waiting published was not the ordeal that many new authors experience as they seek out agents and publishers. Waiting In Vain’s potential was immediately recognized by

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his publisher, Ballantine/One World Books. We can expect another novel from the delightful and charming Colin Channer in the very near future. Like his first novel, Channer’s next work will be, without a doubt, well worth waiting for. H

(Reviews: cont. from page 59) mately, however, what both Dorothy and Eduardo are searching for, they already have inside themselves.

Hidden in Plain View by Blair S. Walker
Avon Books, Inc. Reviewed by Tara Betts

(Elizabeth Nunez: cont. from page 25) eral posts, Nunez served as the college’s chair of humanities for six years. “Something criminal has taken place,” Nunez states about students who enter college without rudimentary writing skills. Though most of her students are bright, they often fall short in writing. She is passionate about them taking their rightful place in a literate society. Once given the basics she noted that her students embrace the process of writing. Much of her time is spent promoting and reading from her novel and she is especially grateful for the independent press. Large publishers, she points out, invariably support black authors of popular fiction. “We have gotten to a point where the only value literature has is that it can make a publisher rich.” In keeping with her charge to educate, Dr. Nunez wrote Beyond the Limbo of Silence to illustrate how, throughout American history, African Americans have gone out on a limb for the sake of community and race. The heroes she says have consistently overlooked the direct threat to their own lives. She also wanted to depict how liberal white schools in America in the 1960’s recruited students from the West Indies rather than admit black American students under the guise of “assisting in the struggle.” While authoring novels and teaching, Dr. Nunez is Chair of the National Black Writers Conference and Co-Chair of the National PEN Open Book Committee. She is committed to the advancement of black literature specifically and the humanities in general. “The arts,” she offers “give us an appreciation for our humanity. They allow us to have more tolerance and compassion for each other and to see our connection to the rest of the world.” H

Blair S. Walker might be familiar to some readers as the co-author of Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun? with the late Reginald Lewis, Beatrice Foods CEO. Other readers may have discovered Walker with his first foray into the mystery genre with Up Jumped the Devil’s investigative journalist Darryl Billips. As a freshly promoted assistant editor in Hidden in Plain View, Billips returns to the Baltimore Herald after helping the police solve a series of hate crimes. Soon after, a serial killer begins stalking professional blacks in Baltimore and somehow lures them into their own bathtubs where they are found with no apparent cause of death and confederate flag stickers stuck to their foreheads. Billips tracks the murderer to Atlanta and back to Baltimore again. Billips must discover how this killer thinks in order to stop the murders and get the front page stories. The killer becomes even more deviant as the novel progresses. Deep-seated resentment connected to class issues among blacks and even sexual drives escalate this character’s violent acts. A book filled with photographs and descriptions of potential victims is the killer’s log called “Satan’s Guest List.” Even incest becomes part of the killer’s appetite as the character loses control over the desire to murder. The killer’s insane introspective vignettes contrast with Billips’ sane, everyday insights. Although Billips becomes an endearing character through his observations and sense of humor, Walker peppers his writing with tiresome cliches, reveals the killer’s identity much earlier than some readers might anticipate, and shifts his plot too quickly from one twist to the next. However, Walker’s ability to evoke curiosity about the story’s resolution strengthens Hidden in Plain View and gives hope for more to come.H

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C E L E B R AT I N G O U R V O I C E S !

Cad MKy lue ca
by Leah Mullins
Eighty years ago, the Jamaican born Claude McKay was an outspoken revolutionary, back when political protest could get a Black man into a heap of trouble. In 1919 two years after a Silent Parade was staged in Harlem to protest the East St. Louis, Illinois Massacre as well as lynchings in Texas and Tennessee, McKay published a poem in The Liberator, which read, “If we must die, let it not be like hogs.” That same year an activist, Ernest Glenwood, was killed in Georgia after circulating supposedly ‘incendiary’ propaganda among Black people in Dooly County. Mckay’s poem was not only courageous, but also cutting edge and helped to launch the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s. McKay was born in 1889 and migrated to the United States in 1912 to study agriculture first at Tuskegee then at Kansas State. At that time he had already published two volumes of poetry. In 1914 McKay traded the study of plant life for his pen and life in Harlem. For a while McKay worked menial jobs while he tried to establish himself as a writer. Finally in 1917 The Seven Arts, a major literary magazine published two of his sonnets. McKay went on to publish numerous articles, poetry collections, short stories and novels, most notably, Banana Bottom (1933) and his autobiography, A Long Way from Home (1937). McKay traveled extensively throughout Europe first embracing communism then a few years before his death in 1948, he converted to Roman Catholicism. McKay wrote about a variety of topics including Jamaican peasant life, life in Harlem, romantic love, and most importantly he dared to write about the social and political issues facing African-Americans at the time. It was not unusual for a Black immigrant to immediately identify with the plight of the African American. Marcus Garvey, also a native of Jamaica, came to the United States and started the Universal Negro Improvement Association, the largest mass movement of people of African descent in this country’s history. McKay later wrote for the Negro World, the UNIA news organ.

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