One devoted man to two families, two daughters born months apart by two separate wives living in the same city. One daughter, who is the secret, knows about the other daughter all while growing up. Imagine that for a minute…going through all the changes and stages growing up girl and you know this story is filled with dramas…not way out there dramas for the entertainment of the community (i.e. reader or community inside the story), but deeply personal ones that show them wrestling, questioning, fumbling, seeking in earnest.
The first half of Silver Sparrow is narrated by the secret daughter Dana Lynn…whose formative years are deeply marked by the loss of a full fledged but loving father and his “other family” and her mother’s determination to ensure Dana Lynn has a better life than her “husband’s” other daughter who is only a few months younger than Dana Lynn. The second half of the book belongs to Chaurisse…whose formative years are marked by the lack of “specialness” which she refers to as “silver” and no sense of achievement and loneliness.
This is now the 3rd book I’m reading consecutively by Jones and what I’m loving is how well she pulls back the layers on personal agonies and dramas. She takes very few glossing overs or global leaps, opting instead to isolate circumstances, events, and thoughts into specific moments without burdening the story with a straight, flat linear style filled with unnecessary descriptions. The story has history, rooted in the lives of the parents and their parents and what occurs even before we arrive on earth shows up as baggage in our lives.
In all three novels, there is a strong theme that the unknown is way more powerful in our lives than the known…whether it is a future we can’t foresee or the weight of living with untruths, half-stories and lies. What also appeals to me is that the main characters grow and do not languish in some self-defacing pity. I’ll be keeping my eye out for future work by Tayari Jones.
This is the first multi-generational novel I read that was set in Puerto Rico. The author condensed a lot into her characters and at times I felt it was rushed in order to cover a lot of ground and at times I thought she relied on the familiarities of broad history to create the personalities of her characters. But overall, I enjoyed being swept across time and the magic of their lives and gifts. It is a coming of age story for each of the 5 generations of women. It starts somewhere in West Africa with a village raid in 1800’s and sweeps across to Puerto Rico to New York and back to Puerto Rico and coming full circle to West Africa. It is a story of the responsibilities of the gifts we inherit and the victories and consequences of using them. I recommended it to my 21 year old daughter to read during Kwanzaa. She, however, selected a book by Walter Mosely.
Oxford University Press, New York, 1998, hardcover, 221 pages.
I started reading this last night. I checked it out from the public library after stumbling over it while looking for another book. To my knowing there are just so few biographies of African/American Artists. The author has also written a biography of James Baldwin and at the time of publication was a Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Conneticut.
The book opens with the author sitting with two elderly nieces in the Delaney home in Knoxville, Tennessee. One of them, Imogene, is playing Amazing Grace on the piano as they sing along as if conjuring the spirit of Mr. Delaney. Amazing Grace was his favorite song.
Having befriended James Baldwin, the author was introduced to Beauford Delaney, whom Baldwin referred to as his “spiritual father”. Leeming recognizes that his personal contact with Delaney was limited but having meet him, the time spent impacted him greatly, along with the personal stories that Baldwin and others relayed which kept him alive after he had passed on.
I didn’t get very far before dozing off to sleep, but having discovered that Amazing Grace was his favorite song and that he faced serious mental health issues, and he life ended while in an aslyum in Paris, I’m wondering what his art meant to him and how he worked.
Read Chapter 1 online.
I’m starting this one tonight. Its been on my Amazon list for a while now. This is a library book.
Tuesday Update: I’m going to attempt to blog along as I read…often times while reading I come across a phrase, new info, etc. that spurs me off into another direction. I’m going to attempt to use my post as notes to comeback to later. So some posts might simply be a question or a phrase or even just an image that I may select to explore later.
For example, in the introduction of this current book, Rediker references an author I’ve never heard. Normally I would stop reading here and google to see what I can find, which leads to getting lost on line and taking time away from reading the book. I’ll see how this works out for me.
Find out more about Ottobah Cugoano.