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A Matter of Souls

Overview

From the shores of Africa to the bowels of a transatlantic ship to a voting booth in Mississippi to the jungles of Vietnam, all human connection is a matter of souls.

In this stirring collection of short stories, Denise Lewis Patrick considers the souls of black men and women across centuries and continents. In each, she takes the measure of their dignity, describes their dreams, and catalogs their fears.

Brutality, beauty, laughter, rage, and ...

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Overview

From the shores of Africa to the bowels of a transatlantic ship to a voting booth in Mississippi to the jungles of Vietnam, all human connection is a matter of souls.

In this stirring collection of short stories, Denise Lewis Patrick considers the souls of black men and women across centuries and continents. In each, she takes the measure of their dignity, describes their dreams, and catalogs their fears.

Brutality, beauty, laughter, rage, and love all take their turns in each story, but the final impression is of indomitable, luminous, and connected souls.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Joyce Rice
A movie of the early 1990s claimed that all of humanity is separated by only six degrees or six relationships. The movie, starring an up and coming Will Smith, tried to show that we humans are all connected in some way to each other and that we need to be kinder and more forgiving of each other's faults and errors of life. Patrick explores this theory again using a collection of short stories about the lives of African Americans in the mid-20th century. In sharing the stories of these people, she attempts to show the connection African Americans have with their counterparts, no matter what struggles they face individually or what battle they are fighting. Elsie has brought her mother to the doctor's office because she is light-headed and having fainting spells. Through Elsie's eyes, the reader sees the inequalities of the pre-civil rights era, as her mother and others are forced to wait in the Colored Waiting room even though the Whites Only waiting room is empty of patients. Elizear Markham was an independent store owner, living in the sixties, who was well thought of in his community. His trade of shoemaker was well respected and many white people chose to become his regular clients. When Markham died, his attorney was quick to share the news of the will with Markham's chief apprentice, Covington. Covington was a black man who had worked with Mr. Markham for many years and was well trained in the shoemaker's trade. Covington was also the black son of white Mr. Markham. When Covington sets up shop in the business that now belongs to him, many in the community are enraged at his audacity to think he can take over the Markham business. When the anger erupts, it is Covington's wife, Beesi, who comes to the rescue. This collection of short stories will remind the reader of how easy it is to treat people as less than they deserve and how important it is to recognize strength and dignity in all people. This is a great addition for the Social Sciences area and would be an excellent tool during Black History month studies. Reviewer: Joyce Rice
Voya Reviews, April 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 1) - Beth Green
This compilation of short stories features a variety of voices, including an African American soldier in the Vietnam War, slaves being traded from a cargo ship traveling from Africa to the United States, and a piano player during the jazz era. A Matter Of Souls gives an insider view into the treatment, both cruel and loving, of African Americans throughout history. Readers who are studying about a specific time period would benefit from the perspective of a character affected by laws of segregation, as well as the thoughts that are not spoken aloud but ruminated upon while being beaten for simply being black. Patrick does a phenomenal job of relaying the hopes and dreams of those who were determined to overcome what was inevitable, especially when laws prevented them from being heard. Sensitive readers should be made aware of situations that are presented that describe violence against others which, while historically accurate, can be disconcerting. A Matter Of Souls is a wonderful addition to any library, especially those who have patrons who are studying history. Reviewer: Beth Green; Ages 12 to 18.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-01-15
Eight short stories with long memory cut to the quick—all the more as they could be true. Patrick's tales from the distant and not-so-distant past shed fresh light on interracial and intraracial conflicts that shape and often distort the realities of African-Americans. The youthful characters possess passion and purpose, even if they remain misguided or too proud to live safely within their historically situated habitats. In one story, "Colorstruck," Hazel absorbs everything Miss Clotille, her light-skinned, middle-class Negro employer, has taught her: how to say etiquette instead of manners and teal and magenta instead of green and purple, and to wear shoes in public. Living in the shadow of Clotille and her five fair-skinned sisters, Hazel believes that blackness will impede her upward social mobility. She loses her job and nearly loses her life by placing her faith in "Beauty Queen Complexion Clarifier…guaranteed to brighten, lighten and heighten your natural beauty!" As the visage of the "ideal Colored woman" floats through this tale, it illuminates the multifaceted sources of self-hatred and enmity within black families around skin color. The plots and characters change from one story to the next, but each one artfully tells a poignant truth without flinching. Shocking, informative and powerful, this volume offers spectacular literary snapshots of black history and culture. (Short stories. 12-18)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761392804
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/1/2014
  • Pages: 186
  • Sales rank: 808,718
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 810L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Denise Patrick

Denise Lewis Patrick has written more than twenty books for children. Before writing full-time, she worked in publishing as a staff writer and editor. Denise has been telling stories since she was eight years old. She remembers, as a child, binding her hand-written manuscripts with a needle and thread to create her very own books.

Ms. Patrick lives on Staten Island with her husband and their four sons. This is her first book for middle-grade readers.

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