Rattlebone

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Overview

In Rattlebone, a "fictional" black community north of Kansas City, the smell of manure and bacon from Armour's Packing House is everywhere; Shady Maurice's roadhouse plays the latest jazz, the best eggs are sold by the Red Quanders, and gospel rules at the Strangers Rest Baptist Church. This is the black Midwest of the 1950s, when towns could count their white folks on one hand - the years before the civil rights movement came along and changed everything. In perfectly cadenced vernacular, Maxine Clair speaks to ...
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Rattlebone

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Overview

In Rattlebone, a "fictional" black community north of Kansas City, the smell of manure and bacon from Armour's Packing House is everywhere; Shady Maurice's roadhouse plays the latest jazz, the best eggs are sold by the Red Quanders, and gospel rules at the Strangers Rest Baptist Church. This is the black Midwest of the 1950s, when towns could count their white folks on one hand - the years before the civil rights movement came along and changed everything. In perfectly cadenced vernacular, Maxine Clair speaks to us through the voices of Rattlebone's citizens: October Brown, the new schoolteacher with a camel's walk and shoulder-padded, to-the-nines dresses; Irene Wilson, naive and wise, who must grapple with her parent's failing marriage as she steps eagerly into adulthood; and Thomas Pemberton, owner of the local rooming house, an old man with a young heart. Sparkling with lyricism, Clair's interconnected stories celebrate the natural beauty of the Midwest and the dignity and vitality of these most ordinary lives.

Set in the fictional town of Rattlebone, Kansas, in the 1950s, these eleven interrelated stories reveal the emotional, financial, and social conflicts that govern the lives of the African Americans who live there. Winner of the Chicago Tribune Heartland Award.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Clair's debut short-story collection, 11 interlocked tales set in an African American outskirt of Kansas City, Kans., in the 1950s, launches her toward the front ranks of contemporary fiction. Of the several narrative voices, both first- and third-person, that tell of life in Rattlebone, Irene ``Reenie'' Wilson's occupies the passionate center, with well over half the stories related in her words, which evolve from a convincing childspeak vernacular to an engrossingly poetic prose that follows her coming-of-age amid the breakings and reshapings of her family and community, as well as of the unknown world around her. The opening story details the eight-year-old Reenie's experiences stemming from the first day of the school year. Awed by the new teacher, October Brown, and by local lore about the white mark ``a Devil's kiss'' on October's face, Reenie's fear turns to adoration and then to hate as she realizes the destruction that the woman has wrought upon the Wilson family. From the girl's suspicions about the spiritual ambitions of an itinerant white nun through various friendships and alliances, the accidental death of her first crush, her own near-death experience and, finally, her high school graduation, Reenie's lofty childhood motto, ``I am in this world, but not of it,'' aptly describes the inspired insight and strength that she comes to wield. Interspersed among Reenie's chronicle are equally intense stories about her father, James; rooming-house owners Thomas and Lydia Pemberton; Irene's mother, Pearlean; and the growing up of Irene's neighbor, playmate and competitor, Wanda. These and Reenie's own tales add up to an utterly addictive collection by a writer to watch. June
School Library Journal
YA-Set in the black Kansas City of the 1950s, these interconnected short stories engulf readers in lyrical language, poignant events, and vibrant characters as they tell the troubles and triumphs of Reenie Wilson's coming of age. Reenie and the other townsfolk work their way into readers' hearts via Clair's wonderful writing, making life in Rattlebone a touching reality. YAs will share Reenie's growing pains; smile at parochial, small-town folk and their idiosyncracies; and broaden their sense of history and bias. A treasure for all libraries.-Jessica Lahr, Edison High School, Fairfax County, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140248258
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/28/1995
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 957,445
  • Age range: 18 years
  • Lexile: 880L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.77 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Table of Contents

October Brown 3
Lemonade 23
Water Seeks Its Own Level 41
Cherry Bomb 55
The Roomers 71
A Most Serene Girl 95
The Great War 115
Secret Love 121
The Creation 143
A Sunday Kind of Love 175
The Last Day of School 193
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2002

    What a writer Clair is

    This was good fiction. Clair has told a story that gives alot of credence to African Americans in the midwest, and elsewhere for that matter. I really enjoyed the character October Brown, but I was really disappointed when there was no more about her throughout the story, but then again I understood that it was Irene's story and not October's. I was satisfied. I wanted more about the mother and father but Clair gave enough to show that the problem was that the father's dreams were really deferred and the mother's was also, though to a lesser degree. The language was dead-on and interesting. However, I don't think that the character Lydia Pemberton was necessary,she was interesting but Irene could have told us the same things. Red Quanders-Loved 'em, Clair could write a story about them period. This book was so rich!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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