The Matter Is Life

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Overview

A fourth collection of stories by the award-winning author.

American Book Award-winner J. California Cooper spins insight and irony into modern-day parables about simple people who love too little and too late, and about those who toil and struggle against a difficult and often hostile environment. This fourth collection of Cooper's unforgettable stories is alternately charming, disturbing, poignant, and humorous.

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The Matter Is Life

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Overview

A fourth collection of stories by the award-winning author.

American Book Award-winner J. California Cooper spins insight and irony into modern-day parables about simple people who love too little and too late, and about those who toil and struggle against a difficult and often hostile environment. This fourth collection of Cooper's unforgettable stories is alternately charming, disturbing, poignant, and humorous.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Cooper's exuberant talent, displayed so effectively in Family , is somewhat muted in this uneven collection of eight deceptively simple slice-of-life parables. In ``Vanity,'' a friend tells of the downfall of an egocentric beauty, whose passage from darling to victim is inadequately explained. Although Nona--the self-centered, superficial narrator of ``Friends Anyone?''--has a Ph.D. in psychology, she never understands why she is rejected by family and friends, even by Jana, the childhood pal who ends up raising the twins--one deaf, one blind--Nona conceived with Jana's fiance. In ``The Doras,'' the daughters of a poor black woman pursue her dreams and theirs, struggling along the way with poverty, prostitution and all kinds of abuse. Although the questions raised by these tales are important, the answers given are often trite. Sometimes overripe with symbolism, Cooper's trademark African-American dialect here makes it difficult to distinguish narrative voices. (July)
Library Journal
The first of eight stories in this collection focuses on a funeral but affirms life. Almost every speech uttered by the 90-year-old narrator contains the words, ``I ain't ready.'' Luxuriating in the love of her extensive family, she tells God and all the world that she is not ready to die. Later stories deal with poverty, abusive husbands, drug addiction, and prostitution, but even these grim situations yield nurturing down-home wisdom. Most of Cooper's first-person narrators are shrewd black women, and on occasion the stories suffer from sameness in plots, themes, and characters. Usually, however, they are touching without falling into sentimentality and totally honest without becoming crude.-- Albert E. Wilhelm, Tennessee Technological Univ., Cookeville
Carolyn See
These stories are jazzy, clubby, folksy, small towny, populist, perky, and if you don't like them, you must be in an absolutely unshakable bad mood….Halfway between gossip and fairytales, brimming with faith and high spirits, The Matter is Life clues us in on the lives of black women. Buy it. I loved it.
Los Angeles Times
From the Publisher
"Exuberant. With her soul-stirring cry, Cooper urges readers to seize and savor every drop of life."
—San Francisco Chronicle

"These stories are jazzy, clubby, folksy, small towny, populist, perky, and if you don't like them, you must be in an absolutely unshakeable bad mood...Halfway between gossip and fairy tales, brimming with faith and high spirits, The Matter is Life clues us in on the lives of black women. Buy it. I loved it."
—Carolyn See, Los Angeles Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385411738
  • Publisher: Doubleday Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/1/1991
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.92 (w) x 8.58 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Reading Group Guide

1. Most of Cooper's stories focus on the challenges that beset women living in desperate circumstances. How does she give these stories a universal resonance, making them appealing to a variety of readers?

2. The search for love is a common theme in the stories. In addition to the romantic relationships between men and women, what other forms of love does Cooper explore?

3. To what extent are Cooper's protagonists role models? Do you think that the stories are meant to convey certain moral or ethical values?

4. In what ways do the stories in The Future Has a Past differ from those in the earlier books? Do the problems--and the dreams--of the characters reflect changes in our society? Why or why not?

5. What do Cooper's novels share with other books, both fiction and nonfiction, that you have read about the Civil War period? Do her descriptions of the relationships between African Americans and whites before and immediately following the war differ from your previous impressions or beliefs? In what ways does Cooper challenge the traditional depiction of the boundaries between slave and master, black and white? Which characters or relationships do you find particularly surprising? Are the white characters as fully developed as the African Americans are?

6. Cooper touches on a wide range of social, economic, and political issues in her writing, including the historical divisions between races and classes; interracial relationships; the significance of complexion in society in general and within the African American community specifically; and the importance of education. What techniques does she use to incorporate these subjects without disruptingthe flow of the stories? In what ways can fiction be more effective than nonfiction in revealing the forces that shape our world?

7. In describing Cooper's writing, Alice Walker said, "Her style is deceptively simple and direct and the vale of tears in which her characters reside is never so deep that a rich chuckle at a foolish person's foolishness cannot be heard." How do these traits mirror classic forms of storytelling, from myths and Biblical parables to the folk stories passed down through oral traditions? Why do you think Cooper may have chosen to use these timeless techniques to tell her stories?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2011

    This book is a must read! You will thoroughly enjoy it!

    I read this book years ago and found it to be a phenomenal read, as all of J. California Cooper's books are. Her books are real thorough and really take you into the character's life. Once you read one, you will definitely want to explore the others. Enjoy!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 21, 2012

    Anonymous reviews should not be allowed on B&N

    Anonymous reviews should not be allowed on B&N

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2011

    I wish there was a refund offer for NookBooks...

    I usually enjoy J. California Cooper's books, but this was an extreme disappointment. The stories were flat.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2010

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