Bertice Berry's Redemption Song, the reading is fun and entertaining but also enlightening....Uses a simple love story to drive home the importance of understanding one's history.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Comedian and inspirational speaker Berry (Sckraight from the Ghetto) makes a tear-tugging fiction debut with this slim romantic fable about connections across generations. Neighbors Josephine "Fina" Chambers and Ross Buchanan meet serendipitously when they reach simultaneously for the only known copy of a slave woman's journal at a celebrated bookstore devoted to works by black authors. Proprietor Cosina Brown, Miss Cozy to her friends, refuses to sell the valuable book to either customer, but she suspects each has a legitimate reason for wanting it, and convinces the two of them to read it aloud to each other at her shop. The story may hold keys to issues in each of their lives: Fina has buried herself in work since her father's death two years earlier, and is unable to sustain a relationship. Ross, an anthropologist specializing in urban myths, wants to prove the narrative is more than a legend and come to terms with his troubled past by unearthing a tale of enduring love. As Fina and Ross read the diary, with Miss Cozy hovering nearby, the saga of slaves Iona and Joe, separated by circumstances, unites the trio. Written by Iona, who was granted the gift of spontaneous literacy, the diary tells of familiar indignities and injustices of slavery. It concludes with the account of a tragedy, but Miss Cozy's psychic insight leads her to believe that the end of the diary is not the end of the story. Her powers of perception bring the trio to a spiritual affirmation of love and what Miss Cozy calls a Recipe for Life. Berry's premise is interesting, but the rapid intimacy between Fina and Ross strains credulity, as do the frequent coincidences that advance the plot. Readers of inspirational fiction may enjoy this combination of sentimental love story and black history, however. Agent, Victoria Sanders. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
This first novel from inspirational speaker and author Berry (Bertice: The World According to Me) is a modern love story with a spiritual base centered on the black experience. Ad executive Fina Chambers and anthropology professor Ross Buchanan are after the same item in the Black Images bookstore: a slave woman's memory book, known as Children of Grace. Since bookstore owner Miss Cozy senses something special about these two, she has them read the manuscript to each other and joins in herself. The revelations of this trio are interspersed with sections from the memory book recounting slave Iona's rape, torture, and murder and her undying love for fellow slave Joe. Berry has clearly poured her heart into this smooth-as-silk paean to black love, so a bit of preachiness at the end can be forgiven. While the message is intended for the African American community, Iona's charge--"to love, to forgive, to never forget"--is applicable to all.--Michele Leber, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Read an Excerpt
You Make Me Feel Like Myself
Ross Buchanan was in front of Black Images bookstore at seven-thirty in the morning; he was on a mission. He knew the bookstore didn't open until eight o'clock but he wanted to be there when the owner, Cosina Brown, opened her doors. He'd been there before to pick up what he called a "popular culture book.'' As an anthropologist, he spent most of his time looking for artifacts or in university libraries digging around in the stacks. Modern books by modern writers were rarely on his agenda. Miss Cozy's bookstore sold its share of New York Times bestsellers, but Black Images also specialized in rare, hard-to-find books. Ross wasn't a regular like most of Miss Cozy's other customers, but today, Ross Buchanan sat on the bench in front of Black Images hoping for a miracle. While he waited, he unfolded the copy of an old letter he always carried with him.
I write to you, but I know you won't be gettin this. I be free for going on five years now. But I ain't truly free, cause I ain't with you. Mr. Sanders, the man who help me get free, say, maybe I can buy you free, too. I'm a try. Cause what good is this freedom, if I ain't free to love you?
I guess I'm just writin cause I can. Mr. Sanders, he teach me that, too. I'm a write again tomorrow, maybe them stars you be talkin to will tell you what this say.
I love you, you make me feel like myself.
Ross refolded the worn copy of the old letter and closed his eyes and said a prayer: "Please God, let Miss Cozy know something about Children of Grace. Amen.''
Seek Peace, Find Love
Ross Buchanan had finally taken asabbatical from teaching anthropology after ten long years. He was one of the best professors at one of the best universities, but he needed to be much more than that. While he was working on his Ph.D., he'd heard about an enslaved man named Joe who'd written letters to a woman he was sold away from. The letters never reached her. It was said that all but the one he held had been destroyed. The woman Iona had also written about this love in a memory book called Children of Grace.
Finding that book was extremely important to Ross. Unfortunately, many of his colleagues didn't share his enthusiasm. Tom Brandon, one of the country's most prominent physical anthropologists and Ross's colleague and supposed buddy had wondered why Ross would spend time surveying slavery. And he certainly couldn't understand anyone investigating love and slavery at the same time. Ross hadn't expected this reaction. He was disappointed but not at all daunted. He understood that most blacks hadn't thought of the love that existed during slavery either. But just as he was about to determine a topic for his dissertation research, he came upon an old article in a small black newspaper about a woman who said her great-grandmother had owned a book about a powerful story of love--a slave story, about love. Ross suspected the book was Children of Grace. He tried to track down the woman who wrote the article but couldn't; the small newspaper had folded and Ross's attempts to find the woman through local information came up empty. Anyone else would have been disappointed, but Ross Buchanan had had a childhood that he could truly measure disappointment by, so he was not swayed. Now that he knew he was on the right track all he had to do was wait for his train to come in.
But now Ross would take a leave of absence to do what he considered his life's work. He would delve into the subject of black love from past to present. The history of black love was certainly an underdeveloped area of research, and so was slavery, but he felt that Children of Grace would give him a better perspective on both. Ross's work was purely academic--he was, after all, a rational man, but still he hoped and prayed that Miss Cozy could help him. This "Love Project," as he'd started to call it, may have been based in logic, but it would require his faith.
Ross had always been overly serious; his early childhood hadn't given him anything to be frivolous about. He'd been shuttled back and forth from foster home to foster home until he was in his early teens, when he found a permanent home. Young Ross didn't really understand love or what it meant to have a family. His childhood had been rough, then comfortable, then over, right when he was learning how to be a child. He remembered little of his life before coming to his last foster home. But what he remembered had not been good, so he tried to forget that, too.
Over the years, Ross had learned that trying to forget something painful is like trying to ignore yourself: You're always there, and so is the pain. For a while, his painful past was a part of him, it was all he could see. His scars were both physical and emotional. At one foster home, his foster mother's boyfriend had scalded Ross. The left side of his chest and shoulder still bore the mark of what the man had said was an accident. But once Ross was inside the emergency room, he told the doctor what had really happened. Ross thought for sure that his foster mother would put the boyfriend out, and then hold the little boy and tell him how sorry she was. Instead, he learned the meaning behind the old folks' saying "If wishes were horses, everybody would ride." The woman called Ross stupid and said he had caused her to lose her money and her man.