SAP Rising by Christine Lincoln, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
SAP Rising

SAP Rising

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by Christine Lincoln

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In this spare and mesmerizing debut, Christine Lincoln takes us inside the hearts and minds of African Americans whose lives unfold against a vividly evoked rural community. As they navigate between old and new, between youth and responsibility, they find themselves choosing between the comforts of what they trust without question and the fearsome excitements of


In this spare and mesmerizing debut, Christine Lincoln takes us inside the hearts and minds of African Americans whose lives unfold against a vividly evoked rural community. As they navigate between old and new, between youth and responsibility, they find themselves choosing between the comforts of what they trust without question and the fearsome excitements of what they might come to know.

One young man’s world is both expanded and contracted by stories he hears from a beautiful stranger. Another stumbles across his mother having an affair with his uncle. An intense friendship forms between one woman afraid she will turn out like everyone else and one afraid she won’t. Lincoln’s down-to-earth voice, saturated with the manner and details of the South, brings her characters to life with a remarkably light touch and an extraordinary depth of emotion. In Sap Rising, she proves herself one of those writers whose work transcends its own rich particularity to speak with clarity to the most fundamental elements of the human experience.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Sensuous, surprising, and a shade magical.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review

“[Has] the authority and haunting resonance of folktales. . . .With delicacy and insight, Lincoln brings to life her characters’ painful awakenings and powerful epiphanies.” –O: The Oprah Magazine

“Lincoln writes with understated grace and a terrific eye for detail.” –The New York Times

“Heralds the arrival of an assured writer with an awesome talent. . . . Electrifying.” –Essence

“Lyrical . . . shimmering, worldly-wise.” –People

Publishers Weekly
Abandonment and acceptance, city versus country living, and the aching desire for freedom are the themes of the 12 linked short stories gathered here. Gently and skillfully, Lincoln leads readers back and forth in time collecting and juxtaposing fragments of stories set in a town called Grandville, in the rural South. In "Bug Juice," nine-year-old Sonny gets a taste of grown-up dreams and desires when his uncle comes to visit with a city woman "the color of ripened mulberries," who tells him stories about "Af-free-ka." Later on, in "All That's Left," Sonny appears again as one of a group of friends who decide to gang up on a prissy girl, Pontella. Pontella is the daughter of Ebbie Pinder, who runs away from Grandville and returns with baby Pontella, only to desert her three years later. When she realizes her mother isn't coming back, in "A Hook Will Sometimes Keep You," Pontella comes to believe she is turning invisible, though her Aunt Loretta loves her dearly. Lincoln's language can be trite and self-consciously folksy, and her tales fit a little too snugly in the mold of down-home Southern storytelling, but she supports their sentimental trappings with harsher truths. (Sept.) Forecast: Lincoln has already been the subject of a number of feature stories in national publications since she won a major writing prize as a graduating senior and 34-year-old single mother at Washington College in Maryland. A 12-city author tour and national print advertising are supporting this title, but it may fall between the cracks, being too literary for readers of commercial African-American fiction and too soft focus to succeed as literary fiction. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
In many of these stories, young Southern blacks learn about the world from outsiders, and their understanding and values, which had been formed by their parents, widen and darken. An overheard conversation at a funeral, an uncle's girlfriend's pointed comments, a visitor's kindly advice—all are moments of insight for the young protagonists. Set mostly in the rural South decades ago, the stories have an elegiac tone because of their distance in time, but the lessons learned are hurtful and hurry the children into the world of adults. A few of the stories, including the title piece, are mere sketches, character studies with little action, but the three stories that recount the death and funeral of Hiron Fuller, scattered in reverse chronological sequence through the book, offer more. A character we first see as a drunken, wife-beating clown is revealed as a tortured man unable to reach the promise of his youth because of the pervasive racism in post-WW II America. The author does not ask us to condone this man's weaknesses but to feel his frustrating, pointless suffering. While the focus of the first story is the response of his three daughters to his death, by the end of the third story we are deep inside Hiron's consciousness and see there the tragedy of his life. Technically and emotionally, the Hiron Fuller stories are the highlight of this excellent collection. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Random House, Vintage, 164p., Healy
Library Journal
a life other than what her community expects of her, a rerun of her parents' life. Thinking about her father, "She knew that he had risen early in the morning and would stay in the fields all day .And come home in his sweat-soiled work clothes .Ebbie hated that smell." In "Acorn Pipes," Hiron, a husband and father, has bled to death from the blow of his own ax: " `I hear a tree fell on him.' `Naw, chile. He was drunk. As usual.' " Hiron is thus dismissed as shameless. Later, "A Very Close Conspiracy" reveals the unmaking of this man. Home from a war in which he was denied a respectable participation, he is forced off the bus and made to enter by the rear entrance. "He felt something deep inside begin to shrink with each step toward the back of the bus .He wanted to disappear .And Hiron knew in that instant what it felt like to exist and not exist." The knowledge with which Lincoln writes is too much for any one person to harbor. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/01.] Patricia Gulian, South Portland, ME Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This short-story collection has YA appeal beyond its slim format and eye-pleasing font. Grandville is the setting of each selection, but the picturesque, rural environs take a backseat to the town's feisty residents. Before "African American" or "politically correct" was part of the nation's vernacular, this close-knit community of "people of color" was coping with traditions, expectations, and inner voices. Readers hear from Sonny, Scoogie, June, Cinny, Hiron, Pontella, Ebbie, Ruthie, and a cast of others as they wend their way through a series of personal trials. An overlap of characters among stories forges a quaintness that is reinforced by appropriate dialect from children (chirrun) and grown-ups alike. Out of chronological order, the lives of Grandville's most vociferous citizens are patched together. What rises to the top is a railing against stereotypes and familial domination that teens will find respectable and worth discussing. Sap Rising would enliven discussions about African Americans, feminism, or self-esteem. It is a quick read, but one to savor.-Karen Sokol, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Oprah protegee Lincoln offers a debut collection of 12 folksy tales delicately and graciously delineating the hardscrabble lives of a series of southern rural characters. Many of these stories, gripped by subtle violence, concern various members of the Fuller family: Ma'D, once a vivacious young bride, her dreams gradually blunted by the harsh reality of farm life; her husband Hiron Fuller, a WWII vet so demoralized by racism that he returns to the farm an alcoholic failure; and their four daughters. In "Acorn Pipes," Hiron's sudden, gruesome accidental death by axe prompts second-oldest daughter Hira to fabricate for the benefit of her incredulous sisters a tall tale about their father teaching her to make acorn pipes. The sisters are desperate to believe that their daddy was more than just a drunken fool, and they hide under the porch, splintering acorns in their hands, as they listen to the neighbors' malevolent gossip overhead. In "A Very Close Conspiracy," on the other hand, Hiron relates the affecting details of his own story to his mule, Walter P, on the last fateful day of his life. Oldest daughter Cinny figures in several of the tales as the strongest-willed of the sisters, defying her mother even when they come to blows. In "Wishes," she dares to pray that her no-good father (Cinny "knew all the secrets of a grown man's frailties") will die and leave them all in peace. Other stories, such as "Bug Juice" and "Winter's Wheat," sketch entire family tragedies within a few vivid observations by the child narrator; they point up Lincoln's debt to such African-American writers as Toni Morrison and to oral history. The slenderness of the narratives belies their emotional strength,revealing the author's deep conviction that the writing process itself can redeem the poverty, ignorance, cruelty in her characters' lives. Author tour

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Contemporaries Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.19(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.47(d)

Read an Excerpt


She came into Sonny's life like wind, like a storm that blew in one night and was gone the next, leaving him with a yearning that would take years to fill. At first Sonny thought he was still caught in the depths of his dream, but then a stronger force pulled him back to a moon-soaked room, and into the lingering laughter that filtered through the cracks in his bedroom door and sounded like stars. Sonny knew the sounds of night surrounded by the softness of Moss Woods. For nine years he'd slept in that room, with the worn mahogany bureau, the paneled wardrobe, and the cedar chest, listening to his younger brother's and parents' breathing against the monotonous drone of insects and frogs spirited under the cover of darkness.

Sonny swung his legs over the side of the bed. He had gone to sleep in nothing but his underwear. And as he stood up, stretching his slight frame, a hint of the muscles that would pull him into manhood seemed somehow clearer in the moon's light. He picked his way to the door, opened it a crack, and slid through, pulling it quickly behind him as he went to stand at the top of the stairs. The glow from the kitchen cast the stairway into shadows, so Sonny had to hold on to the banister as he made his way to the bottom step. He could make out the voices of his mother and father and of another man whose voice he did not know. He poked his head around the corner, blinking his watery eyes against the kitchen's sudden brightness.

His father sat at the head of the table, his mother at the other end, her back to Sonny. A man sitting to the right of his mother poured himself a glass of beer from the paper bag he held in his hand. The man was around his parents' age, Sonny could see that. He was a shade lighter than his drink, with a sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of his nose and eyes that smiled even as his mouth disappeared behind his glass. A woman sat beside him, and once Sonny had seen her, he could not take his eyes from her. She was the darkest person he had ever seen, with almost everyone in his family being light-skinned and freckled.

But this woman was the color of ripened mulberries, the purple-black stain that covered Sonny's lips and hands when he gorged himself on the fruit's sweetness. Her cheekbones were so high the lower portion of her face seemed to belong to someone else. She sat quiet, looking back and forth among the other three as they traded conversation. Sonny shifted his weight, and the movement caught his father's eyes.

"What're you doin' up this time of night? You supposed to be sleepin'."

His mother turned around in her chair, her face a picture of pursed lips and contorted eyebrows as she tried to capture Sonny's eyes with her own. Before Sonny could come up with an excuse that would satisfy her, the beer man said, "Sonny! That you? My Lord, you done got big since the last time I saw you. Tall."

Sonny smiled, tucking his chin into his chest.

"You know who I am?" He didn't wait for Sonny to reply. "I'm your uncle Kenny. Remember me?"

Sonny's smile spread into a grin. He nodded his head hard so that it felt as if it would fall off and roll across the kitchen floor.

"Come over here. Let me get a good look at you." His uncle Kenny stretched his arms toward him, and Sonny flew from his mother's accusing eye and into the welcomed embrace.

Sonny felt himself engulfed in a close, quick hug before being taken by the shoulders and held at arms' length. His uncle's eyes searched Sonny's flushed face until he seemed satisfied with what he read there.

"You got yourself a fine young man here, Leonard, Sissy. Looks like Daddy when he was a boy, don't he?" His uncle turned to the woman by his side. The palm of his hand lay against the back of Sonny's neck, and Sonny was sure his uncle would be able to feel the heat rise up in his body. "Annie, this is Sissy's oldest boy, Sonny."

Sonny could feel the woman looking him over. He wanted to look at her, too, but didn't. She was from the city, and his mother had told him about city folks. How they was evil, devils, all of them going to hell except Uncle Kenny, who still had a chance at salvation since he hadn't actually been born there.

"Yes," his mother said. "This one here's a good one, as long as I stay on him. You gots to stay on chirrun these days."

"And what about that other one?" His uncle Kenny squeezed Sonny's neck.

"Now, that Dennis, he's somethin' else, child."

"He was, what? three, four when I was last here?"

"Three. Just turned seven." Sonny could feel himself disappear once his mother's words were off him. "And when I say he's a mess, I mean he is just a mess. 'Bout a week or so ago, I come outside, and the boy had let all the chickens out of the coop. He running behind, talkin' about, 'Fly away, birds, fly away. You free!' "

"Lord have mercy!" Sonny's uncle sputtered, choking on a sip of beer. Everyone at the table laughed, as Sonny slipped away to go sit in the corner of the room. The conversation flowed around him like sea currents, and he was relieved that his uncle had diverted his mother's attention. He watched the way Annie nodded her head at the stories shared, laughing at the parts she was supposed to. Every now and again she would say something to his mother in a voice that sounded like dusk.

She didn't look like she was evil, with her soft hazel eyes and a laugh that pulled him to the edge of his seat. Sonny watched as a moth fluttered against the screen door, trying to get to the light over the porch. The hum of insect wings and the drone of the conversation weighted his eyes, and his lashes began fluttering against the top of his cheeks. When he heard his name he nearly jumped from his seat, eyes wide and blind at the sound of his mother's voice.

"Come on, little boy. It's time for you to get back to bed."

"But I ain't tired." He tried to keep his voice from a whine. Sonny hated it when his mother called him a little boy, as if he were a child like Dennis. "Besides, it's too hot."

He crossed his arms over his chest, imagining he had become one with the chair. His mother crossed her arms as well, and Sonny could see that she was going to push the issue, even in front of this Annie woman.

"Let the boy go, Ruthie," Sonny's father said.

"Leonard, he needs to get his butt in the bed."

"How 'bout he come sit out on the porch with me?" Annie said.

Sonny's mother turned to the woman at her brother's side. She tilted her head, her eyebrows arching into her hairline as she looked down the length of her nose at the other woman.

"I mean, if that's OK with you all?"

Sonny's mother said nothing at first, just continued to look at the woman. She waited. Sonny knew she was good at that. Could ride the space between the passing of time and the beat of a person's heart for just that right moment. As if she knew just how long it took to let a person know everything he or she needed to know.

"I guess it's all right. But...”" His mother raised her finger as Sonny bounded out of his chair. "But you not goin' to be out there that long. So don't get yourself too comfortable."

"Yes, ma'am."

Sonny walked across the kitchen and past his mother, his steps slow and measured. His knees quivered like a colt's from the strain of trying to keep himself from running as he made his way out the door and onto the porch with Annie.

"Let's go sit on the steps, Sonny," she said once they were outside.

Sonny went over to the screen and pushed at the heat-swollen wood until the door gave way and opened into blackness. He and the woman sat down on the cement steps. It was cooler out here, much cooler than inside, making the boy suddenly aware of his bare skin.

"It's beautiful here," she whispered.

Sonny looked around the blackened yard, his face a puzzle. "Don't you have nuthin' like this where you from?"

"Not in the city."

She pointed to the heavens. "See how big the sky is?"

Sonny followed her finger. The sky looked the same as it always did.

"It ain't so big where I live."

"You mean it's smaller? The sky?"

"Oh, yes, much smaller. Folks made it that way."

"Folks can make the sky shrink?" The boy cut his eyes at the woman.

"In the city they can."

Sonny leaned against the stair. His mama might be right, he thought. Maybe those folks is devils, anytime they can take God's Heaven and make it smaller, and he told her he believed it's cause everyone there's going to hell anyway.

Meet the Author

Christine Lincoln was born and raised in Baltimore. At age thirty-four, she graduated from Washington College and was awarded the school’s Sophie Kerr Prize, an event that was covered by The New York Times and The Washington Post.

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