Damballah Pa

Overview

This collection of interrelated stories spans the history of Homewood, a Pittsburgh community founded by a runaway slave. With stunning lyricism, Wideman sings of "dead children in garbage cans, of gospel and basketball, of lost gods and dead fathers" (John Leonard). It is a celebration of people who, in the face of crisis, uphold one another—with grace, courage, and dignity.

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Overview

This collection of interrelated stories spans the history of Homewood, a Pittsburgh community founded by a runaway slave. With stunning lyricism, Wideman sings of "dead children in garbage cans, of gospel and basketball, of lost gods and dead fathers" (John Leonard). It is a celebration of people who, in the face of crisis, uphold one another—with grace, courage, and dignity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A novelist of high seriousness and dept . . . enormous care and intelligence." The New York Times
Library Journal
This short story collection and novel, respectively, both published in 1981, are the second and third volumes in the author's Homewood trilogy. Damballah contains a dozen stories spanning many years in a Pittsburgh community founded by a runaway slave. Hiding Place shares the same setting.
Sacred Fire
John Edgar Wideman grew up in the Homewood section of Pittsburgh, a setting he has used for a number of his award-winning novels and stories. Damballah, Wideman's collection of stories about the fictionalized black community of Homewood, is the first in a trilogy consisting of Damballah, Hiding Place, and Sent for You Yesterday. Somewhat autobiographical, the books are linked by shared characters, events, and locales, like much of Wideman's writing, the stories in Damballah are intense and lyrical examinations of the intense psychological experience of black people in urban America.

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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395897973
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 7/6/1998
  • Edition description: 1ST MARINE
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.48 (d)

Meet the Author

JOHN EDGAR WIDEMAN is the author of more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction, including the award-winning Brothers and Keepers , Philadelphia Fire , and most recently the story collection God's Gym . He is the recipient of two PEN/ Faulkner Awards and has been nominated for the National Book Award. He teaches at Brown University.

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