Poignant and powerful, this debut collection from preeminent writer and critic Jabari Asim heralds his arrival as an exciting new voice in African American fiction.
Through a series of fictional episodes set against the backdrop of one of the most turbulent years in modern history, Asim brings into pin-sharp focus how the tumultuous events of '68 affected real people's lives and shaped the country we live in today.
The sixteen connected stories in this exciting debut are set in the fictional Midwestern town of Gateway City, where second generation off-spring of the Great Migrators have pieced together a thriving, if fragile existence. With police brutality on the rise, the civil rights movement gaining momentum, and wars raging at home and abroad, Asim has conjured a community that stands on edge. But it is the individual struggles with love, childrearing, adolescence, etc, lyrically chronicled here, that create a piercing portrait of humanity.
In I'd Rather Go Blind and Zombies, young Crispus Jones, who while sensitive to the tremors of upheaval around him is still much more concerned with his crush on neighbor Polly and if he's ever going to be as cool as his brother. When Ray Mortimer, a white cop, kills the owner of his favorite candy store, Crispus becomes aware of malice even more scary than zombies and the ghost that he thinks may be haunting his house.
In The Wheat from the Tares and A Virtuous Woman, Rose Whittier deals with her abusive husband with a desperate resignation until his past catches up with him and she's given a second chance at love. And Gabriel, her suitor, realizes that his whole-hearted commitment to The Struggle may have to give way for his own shot at romance.
And in Ashes to Ashes we see how a single act of despicable violence in their childhoods cements a lasting connection between two unlikely friends.
From Crispus' tender innocence to Ray Mortimer's near pure evil, to Rose's quiet determination, the characters in this book and their journeys showcase a world that is brimming with grace and meaning and showcases the talents of a writer at the top of his game.
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About the Author
Jabari Asim is the author of What Obama Means . . . For Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Future, The N Word, and several books for children. He is also a scholar-in-residence at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and editor-in-chief of The Crisis, the magazine of the NAACP. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Essence, Ebony, and other publications. He recently was honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship.
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I'd Rather Go Blind
Excerpted from "A Taste of Honey"
Copyright © 2010 Jabari Asim.
Excerpted by permission of Crown/Archetype.
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What People are Saying About This
"Jabari Asim has written a brilliant coming-of-age tale filled compelling characters navigating race relations in 1968, navigating familial and neighborhood demands, and triumphantly reaffirming what it means to be human. A lovely, lyrical collection of connected stories that will leave readers breathless and ecstatic with passion and joy."--(Jewell Parker Rhodes, author of Yellow Moon)
"A Taste of Honey has the power of memoir and the poetry of fiction. Suddenly, it is 1968 once more, with all of the hope and violence and seismic change that rocked the cities that summer. It's all here and it's all beautifully rendered. This book is a gem."--(Chris Bohjalian, author Secrets of Eden)
"Jabari Asim's rich short stories read like a novel...full of people we love getting to know, Rose, Gabriel, Pristine, Ed, Reuben and Guts. I particularly loved the male characters in these pages...men who live by their brains and their brawn, shelter their children, their community. They embrace their wives. They love hard, laugh deep and cry inside."--(Denise Nicholas, author of Freshwater Road)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Lariat List 2010, African-Americans, civil rights movement, family
Interconnected short stories set in 1967-1968 , based around one African-American family and their neighbors. At the center of these stories is the Jones family, Reuben, a painter, his homemaker wife Pristine and their three sons, Ed, Schomburg and Crispus. Subjects include police brutality, domestic violence, zombies, ghosts, racism and civil rights. The first story has young Crispus introducing us to his family while other stories spread out to include their neighbors and the city. The last story includes the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr and the ensuing riots. Asim makes you care about these characters, esp Crispus, Reuben and Roderick (the boy genius of the neighborhood).This book was the best book of the month for me. It's a well written , fast read , that kept my interest throughout. Highly recommended.
Touted as a series of short stories, reading this novel as a whole has a much more powerful impact. "A Taste of Honey" is set in a racially divided, imaginary midwestern town, in an African American neighborhood. Some people are happy with what they've got, yet most yearn for a better life. It's the summer of 1967, and racial tensions are rising. A rash of violence starting with a white policemen beating to death a beloved, blind African-American candy store owner sets this normally quiet neighborhood on edge. Everyone has an opinion on what happened and how to stop it from happening again; whether it be the father of three trying to do right by his family by working two jobs, or the teenaged boy down the block getting straight-As in school, working a part-time job and trying to coordinate a group called 'The Warriors' to fight for their rights. Each chapter is about a particular neighborhood character, several chapters overlapping when family members and neighbors are discussed by, and interact with, the featured protagonist. The heart of the neighborhood lies in the home of Pristine and Ed Jones and their three sons, Crispus, Shom and Ed Jr. Ed Jr. is experiencing his first real romantic relationship, working part-time at the African-American grocery store, is a member of the local brotherhood alliance, and hopes to get into Harvard in the fall. Shom and Crispus, much younger then Ed. Jr., share a room where their personalities are as different as night and day. Shom, the much favored son, is rarely talked about except by Crispus, who knows he is seen as second best. Crispus has a crush on a chubby neighbor girl who sees a ghost in Crispus' house. Next door to the Jones' lives Rose and Paul Whittier. Rose has a singing voice that could invoke emotion from a stone, and Paul beats her on a daily basis to make her stop singing. But Rose will never stop singing, for it's the only joy she has in life. One day a gigantic stranger comes into their home and leaves with a battered Paul in the trunk of his car. It takes Rose a long time to believe she is finally free. The climax of the book comes when Martin Luther King is assassinated and riots break out and family members are separated. Ed Jr. is making his way back to his side of town after attending a Harvard interview when his bus is stopped by the police and everyone is forced to get off and leave on foot. Fearing rioting, people are boarding their windows, streets are being shut down and angry mobs are forming everywhere Ed looks. Will he make it home to his family? Will everyone in their respectful little neighborhood be safe? What will the world look like after this monumental event? Extremely sympathetic characters narrated in such an interesting manner make this story intriguing, leaving the reader wanting more.