The Washington Post
A Taste of Honey: Storiesby Jabari Asim
Through a series of fictional episodes set against the backdrop of one of the most turbulent years in modern/b>
Poignant and powerful, this debut collection from preeminent writer and critic Jabari Asim heralds his arrival as an exciting new voice in African American fiction.
Through a series of fictional episodes set against the backdrop of one of the most turbulent years in modern history, Asim brings into pin-sharp focus how the tumultuous events of '68 affected real people's lives and shaped the country we live in today.
The sixteen connected stories in this exciting debut are set in the fictional Midwestern town of Gateway City, where second generation off-spring of the Great Migrators have pieced together a thriving, if fragile existence. With police brutality on the rise, the civil rights movement gaining momentum, and wars raging at home and abroad, Asim has conjured a community that stands on edge. But it is the individual struggles with love, childrearing, adolescence, etc, lyrically chronicled here, that create a piercing portrait of humanity.
In I'd Rather Go Blind and Zombies, young Crispus Jones, who while sensitive to the tremors of upheaval around him is still much more concerned with his crush on neighbor Polly and if he's ever going to be as cool as his brother. When Ray Mortimer, a white cop, kills the owner of his favorite candy store, Crispus becomes aware of malice even more scary than zombies and the ghost that he thinks may be haunting his house.
In The Wheat from the Tares and A Virtuous Woman, Rose Whittier deals with her abusive husband with a desperate resignation until his past catches up with him and she's given a second chance at love. And Gabriel, her suitor, realizes that his whole-hearted commitment to The Struggle may have to give way for his own shot at romance.
And in Ashes to Ashes we see how a single act of despicable violence in their childhoods cements a lasting connection between two unlikely friends.
From Crispus' tender innocence to Ray Mortimer's near pure evil, to Rose's quiet determination, the characters in this book and their journeys showcase a world that is brimming with grace and meaning and showcases the talents of a writer at the top of his game.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
The Washington Post
"Asim successfully delves into politics, domestic violence, racial identity, young love, and more in this humorous and poignant collection..." -Publishers Weekly
"With his debut work of fiction, the Guggenheim Fellow proves himself to be a promising storyteller." -Library Journal
"This fiction rings true." -Kirkus Reviews
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Meet the Author
Jabari Asim is the author of What Obama Means . . . For Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Future, The N Word, and several books for children. He is also a scholar-in-residence at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and editor-in-chief of The Crisis, the magazine of the NAACP. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Essence, Ebony, and other publications. He recently was honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Touted as a series of short stories, reading this novel as a whole has a much more powerful impact. "A Taste of Honey" is set in a racially divided, imaginary midwestern town, in an African American neighborhood. Some people are happy with what they've got, yet most yearn for a better life. It's the summer of 1967, and racial tensions are rising. A rash of violence starting with a white policemen beating to death a beloved, blind African-American candy store owner sets this normally quiet neighborhood on edge. Everyone has an opinion on what happened and how to stop it from happening again; whether it be the father of three trying to do right by his family by working two jobs, or the teenaged boy down the block getting straight-As in school, working a part-time job and trying to coordinate a group called 'The Warriors' to fight for their rights. Each chapter is about a particular neighborhood character, several chapters overlapping when family members and neighbors are discussed by, and interact with, the featured protagonist. The heart of the neighborhood lies in the home of Pristine and Ed Jones and their three sons, Crispus, Shom and Ed Jr. Ed Jr. is experiencing his first real romantic relationship, working part-time at the African-American grocery store, is a member of the local brotherhood alliance, and hopes to get into Harvard in the fall. Shom and Crispus, much younger then Ed. Jr., share a room where their personalities are as different as night and day. Shom, the much favored son, is rarely talked about except by Crispus, who knows he is seen as second best. Crispus has a crush on a chubby neighbor girl who sees a ghost in Crispus' house. Next door to the Jones' lives Rose and Paul Whittier. Rose has a singing voice that could invoke emotion from a stone, and Paul beats her on a daily basis to make her stop singing. But Rose will never stop singing, for it's the only joy she has in life. One day a gigantic stranger comes into their home and leaves with a battered Paul in the trunk of his car. It takes Rose a long time to believe she is finally free. The climax of the book comes when Martin Luther King is assassinated and riots break out and family members are separated. Ed Jr. is making his way back to his side of town after attending a Harvard interview when his bus is stopped by the police and everyone is forced to get off and leave on foot. Fearing rioting, people are boarding their windows, streets are being shut down and angry mobs are forming everywhere Ed looks. Will he make it home to his family? Will everyone in their respectful little neighborhood be safe? What will the world look like after this monumental event? Extremely sympathetic characters narrated in such an interesting manner make this story intriguing, leaving the reader wanting more.