Books by Brian Keith Jackson

THE QUEEN OF HARLEM by Brian Keith Jackson
Released: April 1, 2001

"From Jackson (The View From Here, 1996; Walking Through Mirrors, 1998): an intriguing and well-written look at the nature of identity, whatever the color."
Can a black southern preppie survive in Harlem? Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1998

Jackson (The View From Here, 1997) returns with a genuinely moving if rather bloated tale of a young African-American man returning home to bury his father. Twenty-eight-year-old Jeremy "Patience" Bishop leaves Manhattan, where he is a successful and increasingly well-known photographer, for the funeral of his father, Christopher Bishop, and author Jackson provides an abundance of memories and events before unraveling the ambiguous history behind the relation between Jeremy and his father. The story opens as Jeremy arrives in his hometown of Elsewhere, Louisiana. His mother, though she died shortly after Jeremy's birth, first compelled Christopher to give the toddler to Mama B and Aunt Jess to be raised. Because his father thus disappeared from the boy's childhood, Jeremy is understandably conflicted over his return, uncertain in his feelings both toward the women who loved and raised him and toward the new family—his father's second wife Carol and their children—that he's related to mostly by strangeness. Jeremy's encounters with childhood friends, and his reminiscences with Jess, one of Carol's children, provide Jackson opportunity to reconstruct the finer details of Jeremy's estrangement from his father and the context surrounding it. But the disparity between what needs to be known here to let the drama emerge and the amount that is made known can give the feel of an interesting short story's being expanded to the size of a novel. The wait is long before we learn what the hard secret was behind Christopher's abandonment of his son—even though that secret's surprising twists are in many respects worth the wait and offer an intriguing and variant contribution to the theme of the "disintegrating African-American family." Moving in its core idea—and in its ending—but Jackson, overall, has plumped too many narrative calories into an otherwise lean, and nicely told, story. (Author tour) Read full book review >
THE VIEW FROM HERE by Brian Keith Jackson
Released: Feb. 1, 1997

Cleanly written debut that begins modestly enough, with a simplicity worthy of a YA audience, but loses its way once Jackson's preacherly instincts take over and his characters become object lessons in righteous behavior. As some sort of homage, Jackson sets his novel in the small Mississippi town of Eudora in Welty country, but it's more like the town of Alice, as in Walker. Lest he be charged with a vision of relentless black violence toward women, Jackson has his main character repent his ways and includes a shrew of witchlike proportions. The story is plain enough: Covering the nine months before the narrator's birth, the tale flashes back to her mother's courtship and marriage to one Joseph Henry Thomas, a hard-working illiterate who considers his wife and four children his property and rules the roost with an iron hand—and with a toughness penetrated only by his older sister, Clariece, a mean and pretentious old cow married to a preacher. Clariece certainly lords over Joseph's wife, Anna, the sweet and understanding center of this family saga. Without consulting her, Joseph promises his sixth child, the narrator, to his childless sister, an act that begins the rough times. For, in short order, Joseph loses his job, Anna's best friend dies, and Joseph takes up with the bottle. But the memory of Ida Mae, her wild and sassy friend, helps Anna through the crisis; in letters addressed to Ida Mae interspersed throughout the novel, Anna builds the courage to confront her cruel husband and his brutal sister. In Anna's moment of strength, Jackson provides the chest-thumping moral: ``. . . women are the bearers of life, [and] we also provide the strength that makes life worth living.'' The down-home parable-making here is undermined by all the pop psych, making this, sadly, a perfect contender for the latest in black schmaltz. (Author tour) Read full book review >