GO, GO, SAID THE BIRD by Anne Nall Stallworth


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An earnest, intense novel of racial/sexual tensions in small-town Alabama circa 1964--effective in some of the gritty character-sketchings (echoes of Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, and others), less so in the predictable soul-journey of Stallworth's racially ambivalent young hero. ""Bird"" Lasseter, nearly 18, is the ""son"" (adopted as an infant) of noble Doc Lasseter; he appears to be as Caucasian as anyone. But Bird is considered a ""nigger"" by the Asheton townfolk, who know that his mother (long dead) was a partblack woman with loose ways while his father, unknown, was white. So, denied entrance to local schools, bright Bird is tutored at home; he loves his adoptive sister Johnnie--an increasingly troublesome, sexual connection; above all, he refuses to see himself as Negro, looking down on the poor black family that's taken over his guardianship during recent years. (Doe's ill, now-estranged wife Jenny always objected to having Bird in the house.) Then, however, a series of dark events starts changing Bird's perspective. His innocent relationships with the wife of a bestial Klansman, and with Johnnie, are misinterpreted by local racists (even by Doc), resulting in nasty beatings for both the wife and Bird. Slipping away from Asheton to towns where he can pass as white, Bird witnesses civil-rights activism--including a hotel assault on Martin Luther King. Worst of all, Bird learns that Doc, whose love for black ex-prostitute ZeUs has seemed brave and decent, has a dark side: Doc's selfish collusion in Zella's morphine addiction. So: ""Oh, no, he could not be white. Too much had happened, he hated too much."" And Bird goes on to embrace his black roots, discover mature sexuality with a black girlfriend, join in civil-rights activism, and even move into political violence--though he'll reaffirm his love for Doc (and learn the secret of his paternity) before heading North at the fadeout. This anomalous racial coming-of-age is stiff and often unconvincing, dotted with flat historical cameos. But Stallworth (This Time Next Year) is a solid Southern observer of small-town details and character types--so there's substantial edge and color in the supporting cast here.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1984
Publisher: Vanguard