A recent confrontation with police that ended in the suicide of Jones's husband and her own hospitalization for what seemed a nervous breakdown understandably grabbed headlines. But the real news is that the author of the Corregidora (1975) and Eva's Man (1976) is once again—in fact, since last year's NBA-nominated The Healing—publishing vivid and challenging fiction grounded in African-American themes. Her latest is arguably both something more and something less than a novel, but it's a fascinating story: the first-person narrative of black independent truck-driver Sojourner Nadine Jane Johnson (a.k.a. "Mosquito"). A native Kentuckian whose regular route runs through southern Texas, Nadine strikes up a friendship with the sisterly, mentoring Delgadina, a determinedly self-educated bartender-waitress, and gradually becomes involved with the "new underground railroad" transporting Mexican immigrants—and eventually with a radical activist with whose help she forms the worker-owned Mosquito Trucking Company. Nothing much more really happens in a "novel" composed of long, rich conversations and exchanges of letters, thanks to which Nadine reinvents herself while learning the histories of her own and other "second-class" culture struggles. It's a discursive, free-form dramatization of the raising of a consciousness, including material derived from Buddhist doctrine, Native American "trickster" tales, Mexico's colonial history, Shakespeare's Othello, and numerous other transmogrified sources and influences. The book has its longueurs, but when Jones keeps throwing at you the adventures of Nadine's childhood friend "Monkey Bread" as "personal assistant" to a Hollywood star, the "prophetic" and "mystical" writings of pseudonymous savant "Electra," the militantly Pan-African "Daughters of Nzingha," and much more (even a play written by the author's mother), it's hard not to be swept along by the sassy rhetorical momentum. Early on, Nadine imagines "a true jazz story, where the peoples that listen can just enter the story and start telling it theyselves while they's reading." Mosquito is such a story.
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