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TONING THE SWEEP by Angela Johnson


by Angela Johnson

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-531-05476-4
Publisher: Orchard

 Johnson's spare, beautifully written first novel--a thematic extension of Tell Me a Story, Mama (1989)--portrays a crucial turning point for African-American women from three generations. Grandmother Ola has cancer; Emily and her mama go to the California desert to pack up her belongings and take her back to Cleveland so she can die in peace near her family. Ola and Emily have a special bond: for different reasons, both are mildly estranged from Mama; both love the arid land Ola has made her home since fleeing Alabama after her husband's tragic death in 1964. Latching onto a video camera, Emily starts recording the reminiscences of Ola's friends as a gift for her. In the process, she discovers the source of Mama's unhappiness, and, together, they find the proper send-off for Ola in the desert. Johnson leaves much to understatement, trusting readers to delve between the lines. Emily's narration is interrupted--by Mama, by Ola--in resonant testaments of love; such introspection gives the fleeting days an added poignancy. At the close, the laughter shared by these three and their friends seems to linger in the dry, still air. Place this brave and wonderful piece of storytelling with the best of YA fiction. (Fiction. 12+)