|Book Reveiw 7-5
Sunday, March 30, 2008
By Denise Turney
I have been looking for this book for a long time. One day just before Christmas, I happened upon it at a vendor booth while I was returning to my desk at work. I’m glad I finally found it. Proverbs for the People is a gold nugget filled with short stories written by some of America’s most celebrated African American writers. The anthology opens with a story written by Amanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian born writer whose works have appeared in Posse Review and Allegheny Review. Amanda’s story is titled “Women Here Drive Buses”. Each proverb or short story opens with an insightful quote. Amanda’s quote reads: “If a youth washes his hands well, he will be invited to the feast of the elders.” The quote is accredited to the Igbo people in Africa.
Amanda’s story begins, “Every morning Ken kicks the rusty metal heater in his studio apartment. Sometimes he kicks and kicks until blood trickles from under his toenail, muttering to himself about how the people next door never stop cooking nauseating-smelling food, how the weather back home in Nigeria was never this bad, how his boss at work never seems to clean his shirt, because of the permanent brown line on his collar.”
“Women Here Drive Buses” is a story about an African man named Ken. He has recently come to America to live. He lands in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. Realities of American life do not coincide with his big dreams of what the United States would be like, dreams and thoughts he had before he arrived. The heat doesn’t work properly in the apartment he rents. The first days he catches the SEPTA bus to work, the bus is late. Of course, Ken mentions none of this in his letters home to his family in Africa. It takes him awhile to adjust to the change of life, but he manages quite well. He has brought with him from Africa a very valuable thing, the knowledge that good relationships are what make life sweet.
There is also a story written by Elizabeth Atkins, bestselling author of White Chocolate and Dark Secret. Elizabeth writes about the power of love in her short story aptly titled “Love Can Move Mountains.” Her story begins, “My baby’s face is gray as he lies down there, cradled in that rocky crack in the earth. He is as still as death.” This story is about a mother who fights to save her son after he falls between large boulders in a mountain while out hiking with her. The power of love and the will to never quit trying to save those we love is at the heart of this story. The mother wills the mountain to move until her son is free; she won’t have it any other way.
Some of the other notable writers in the anthology are: Pearl Cleage. She has a story in the book titled “In The Time Before The Men Came”, Donna Hill, Parry “Ebony Satin” Brown, Omar Tyree, Tracy Price-Thompson, Tonya Marie Evans, Gwynne Forster, Trevy McDonald and the writer of this book review column, me – Denise Turney. Each writer shares a proverb with the book’s readers, something they have learned and know for sure about life.
Throughout Proverbs for the People the richness, the color, the vibrancy and the fullness of the African and the African American cultures are celebrated. There are so many different authors and so many different writing styles captured in the book that a reader would be hard pressed not to find one or more stories they didn’t connect and rise in love with. As the book’s forward by Jewell Parker Rhodes states, “gaining wisdom has never been more fun, more entertaining, or more heartfelt.”
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