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The first story, "Orion," is about an African brought to an American plantation who wants to teach "the old ways" to a young slave. Knowing that only in death can he do so, he sets out to get it. "One scream that night. Like a bull when they cut off his maleness. . . . A bull screaming once that night and torches burning in the barn and Master and the men coming out and no Ryan. . . Mistress crying behind a locked door and Master messing with Patty down the quarters.
"Hazel" is the story of a young girl accidentally crippled by her brother and who is now trapped by her mother's good intentions. "When I look at you sitting in that chair... I can't tell you what a trial it is. Then I think. . . there's a whole lot she'll never have to suffer.. .. The lies of men, their nasty hands... having their way, having their babies."
Wideman's writing is powerfully visceral, not tempered with sentiment or poetic prose, which is one reason it is not more widely read than it is. His intelligent and inventive use of language and his concern with the psychological issues that affect African Americans, however, make his work essential. Damballah is pure Wideman, and if you have not yet read him, it is a good place to start.