Synopses & Reviews
This Rain Coming
"Hi, Granma'am. Where's Mama?" I answered.
Granma'am had red and green and yellow-orange tomatoes stretched out in a dip in her upturned housedress. "Well, hi is you, Baby Sister? You ready for some breakfast?" She has turned her back to me before I can nod my head. One at the time, she lays the tomatoes on the wood board by the sink. Then she brushes off her dress front with her hand and goes over to the big black Vulcan stove that anchored thekitchen's back wall. Her cotton stockings were thick, and she had them rolled down below her knees. There was a bulge on each right side, a knot she had twisted to hold her leggings up.
"Sit down to the table, Baby Sister." My place at the table was set directly across from the stove. In time, from that place, and that kitchen, I will know all the Vulcans dents and injuries. I will cause some more.
Granma'am lifted warm bread across the table and onto the white plate with the yellow-green flowers round the edges. She pushed the plate closer to the egg. And then, in one of the wide chairs with beige and brown flecked vinyl seats and backs, the one to my right, Granma'am sat down. "Say your blessin, and have your breakfast, Baby Sister." Her hand stretched out and pressed down my hair where sleep had rumpled the edges up. That was the end of the sentence.
"Where's Mama?" I was screaming; my voice was quavery, wild, quick. I jumped up. The chair legs scraped against the kitchen floor. I stood as tall as I could on the floor. I looked directly at a face and mouth that did not move, eyes that looked surprised but ready too, somehow. The whole situation answered, with a shudder and a sucking sound: she's gone.
Both my hopefulness and my faith in my mother went flat. I felt so completely betrayed.
After many choked breaths, I collapsed at the gate. Left by Mama second and by Daddy first, now I was sent away. My behind on the dirt was naked, and the soil wasn't dry or rich. It wasn't grainy or rocky under my skin. It wasn't cold, but grass wasn't growin. It was in between everything, thats how ordinary it was. Ordinary, just ordinary dirt.
When I finally started to see again I noticed that the dirt in the yard had been raked. Overtop of the lines of rake teeth were two crazy curvy paths. My dashing feet -- yesterday in shoes and today without. Down the middle of all that dashing hurly-girly were two other lines. The little small ovals of my mother's high heels. I stayed there and looked hard a while, my mouth hanging open, my tongue drying off.
"A. J. Verdelle's debut novel has received a good deal of lavish advance praise, and there can be no doubt that she deserves it. The Good Negress is an exceptionally well crafted, beautifully told story of a young black girl struggling to reconcile her rural Virginia roots and the urban ways she is reintroduced to when her mother reclaims her. In the early 1960's, Denise brings with her to Detroit the housekeeping skills her Virginia grandmother has taught her and a country dialect a teacher instantly recognizes
as a liability that must be eradicated and replaced with standard English. As Denise learns this 'official' language and the mores that accompany it, the language in which her story is told changes. Verdelle deftly matches the book's language with that of her growing protagonist. One of the best things about this remarkable novel is that it can be read and enjoyed on a variety of levels. The young may identify with the growing pains of the book's adolescent heroine, academics may analyze its sophisticated representation of the ways in which language shapes reality, and all can sit back and be entertained by the story." Reviewed by Daniel Weiss, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
A brilliant, eye-opening, and critically acclaimed debut novel that follows a young black girl's coming of age as she comes to question the legacies of her family and culture and begins to determine her course for the future.
When 12-year-old Denise Palms, raised in rural Virginia by her grandmother, is called home to Detroit to care for her expectant mother, two older brothers, and stepfather, an encounter with a new, uncompromising teacher encourages her to "reach beyond her station". "Brings universal truths to an affecting study of adolescence".--Publishers Weekly, starred reviews.
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