Books by Devorah Major

Released: May 1, 2001

"Major tells it the way it is with a magical-realist twist, but a tendency to replace dialogue with posturing and speeches undermines her story's impact."
Poet and storywriter Major returns, less forcefully, to the extended black family theme of An Open Weave (1995) in her second outing: a tale that conjures up a centuries-old ghost as narrator in detailing the tragic consequences of Vietnam, drugs, racism, and urban renewal in the decline of a once-thriving black community. With a surname like Everman, there's no avoiding the allegorical intent in what befalls this family in the Fillmore district of San Francisco. Ranger, the dad, is a Vietnam vet dragged low by drugs, which end his marriage but not his contact with his now-pregnant sister Dawa or his teenaged son Sketch, a talented graffiti artist already in trouble with the law for his art, with whom Ranger sometimes connects at his mother Lucille's place. Ranger wants to get clean, but just at the moment when he may have reached his goal he's gunned down, a bystander in a drive-by witnessed by Sketch. Also witnesses are Victoria, an old woman who paints herself white in order to believe herself invisible in public, and her companion, the ghost-narrator. Victoria befriends Sketch, but he can't bear to go home again after his dad's death, living instead with friends and on the street. Ultimately, he's persuaded to make the trip to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington that Ranger had promised him—but with his stepfather instead. Read full book review >
AN OPEN WEAVE by Devorah Major
Released: Sept. 15, 1995

Poet, essayist, and first-time novelist Major skillfully intertwines a wrenching modern-day narrative with an extended African-American family's richly textured oral history. It's Imani Moore's 17th birthday, but while her family waits at home with a celebration dinner, the girl is caught up in the troubles of her best friend Amanda Bresely. Amanda, abandoned by an abusive mother and a white father who denied paternity of his black child, is pregnant andsave for Imani and Imani's familyalone. Imani's loving home, meanwhile, is inhabited by three generations of women, 'the stairstep ladies,' including Imani herself, who can see auras; her mother, Iree, who has epileptic visions; and Iree's adoptive mother, Ernestine, whothough blindcan feel colors and who weaves glorious tapestries that cover the walls of the house and bring light into the lives of all who enter it. As Imani and Amanda wander from the shoreline to a friend's apartment to a playground, Iree, Ernestine, Ernestine's brother Jeremiah, and Zulie and Al, who are effectively also part of the family, spin stories of the past. As they worry and wait over the course of a day and night, the elders relive (among other events) Imani's birth, the brutal murder of Ernestine's natural son Ezekiel (who loved Iree but was not Imani's father), and Amanda's mother's horrifying departure. Eventually, in a flash foreseen by Ernestine, Iree, and Imaniwho, aside from their individual gifts, all have certain powers of compassion and healingAmanda loses her baby. But as the past stories and the present one collide, Amanda finds at Imani's home a family she has been looking for in all the wrong places—and Imani understands with newfound appreciation the ultimate power of community. An impressive achievement: Newcomer Major is a writer to watch. Read full book review >