KILLING COLOR by Charlotte Watson Sherman


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 Eleven folk-tale-style stories rich in musical language from an African-American writer in Seattle, winner of a regional fiction award. Sherman's characters sing and hum ``them old old songs, sound like folks bottled up with sorrow so sweet it turn to sugar.'' In the best stories here, the voice and sensibility are so credible that magical happenings and political messages go down smooth. In ``Swimming Lesson,'' trouble-making boys pressure sweet, pitiful, religious Neethie into walking off a log into the pond. The narrator--worried about being punished if Neethie gets dunked-- sings mlongo mlongo hmmhmmhmm o-o, magical African words that according to legend helped runaway slaves cross a river. The instigators run off without seeing Neethie walk on water, while the young witnesses take the miracle entirely in stride. ``Floating'' affectingly explores a young girl's reaction to abandonment by the mother who tried to abort her and who, years later, unexpectedly returns. The title story, about a mysterious woman taking revenge on KKK members, is marred by an explanatory ending, while the collection loses power as characters repeatedly find consolation in nature and the African past. A piece about a first menstruation initiation will appeal only to those who believe in creating women's rituals. Only ``Emerald City: Third & Pike''--a middle- class African-American encounters a crazed homeless woman--is not told exclusively in a down-home voice. An intermittently satisfying poetic sampler that at moments really hums.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-934971-18-8
Page count: 120pp
Publisher: Calyx Publishing
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1992


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