Books by Eric V. Copage

A KWANZAA FABLE by Eric V. Copage
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

New York Times Magazine editor Copage follows up 1991's much- lauded Kwanzaa: An African-American Celebration of Culture and Cooking with an uninspired meant-to-inspire YA-ish coming-of-age story set during the African-American holiday. Thirteen-year-old Jordan Garrison is growing up in an idealistically drawn middle-class black suburb with his father, grandmother, and eight-year-old twin brother and sister. Jordan's mother died just after the twins were born, and his father is now the driving force of the household, cooking up big plates of jambalaya, reprimanding Jordan for not properly drying the lettuce for the salad, and constantly reminding the boy of his impending responsibility ``to become a Black man.'' Jordan can't understand what seems to be his father's obsession with black manhood, and when his father suffers a fatal heart attack, he no longer has a chance to ask him about it. With his father gone, though, the pressures toward manhood only increase. Snackman, the dashiki- wearing, African-history-espousing owner of the corner store, gives Jordan an aging piece of kente cloth to inspire him to an awareness of race. Snackman is locally famous for his window displays on black history, especially during Kwanzaa, the late December harvest holiday invented in 1966. Jordan's responsibilities are also increased when his grandmother takes an evening job and Jordan has to babysit the twins every night. Eventually, he rebels against these pressures by hanging out with some bad kids, skipping classes, and showing disrespect to Snackman. When, just before Kwanzaa, Jordan's friend J.B. challenges him to steal $500 from the store, Jordan must prove whether he's now ready to become ``a black man.'' The language is stiff, the symbolism thick, and the revelations of the meanings of Kwanzaa will be too scant for most readers: altogether, a ho-hum holiday tale. Read full book review >
NONFICTION
Released: Nov. 18, 1991

Kwanzaa is an invented holiday, created in 1966 by African- American Maulana Karenga, who, Copage (a New York Times Magazine editor) here says, ``synthesized elements from many African harvest festivals.'' Observed throughout the week after Christmas by an increasing number of black Americans, it is loaded with symbolic rituals and capped by a feast on December 31 or January 1. As Copage describes it, the holiday is approached in a spirit of ``jazzy'' improvisation: Some celebrate Kwanzaa instead of Christmas, some after, and some ``Kwanzafy'' their Christmas celebrations. And, as with any celebration, the food is crucial. Copage, who writes well and with a mercifully light touch, has put his book together in the same spirit, including African folktales, profiles of black Americans, anecdotes and significant events from black history, and a lot more. It's all relatable to black pride and Kwanzaa principles, thus proper food for thought for families celebrating this evolving holiday, though often far removed from the purview of a conventional cookbook. Still, cookbook it is, with more than 125 recipes—ranging from grilled marinated rabbit to sweet-potato muffins—that do full justice to black cuisine as it has evolved in Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean, and the American South. The recipes and Copage's concise and personable background notes show respect for the food as well as the culture—and they outclass any existing Kwanzaa material by leagues. Read full book review >