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THE MONKEY SUIT by David Dante Troutt


and Other Short Fiction on African Americans and Justice

by David Dante Troutt

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-56584-326-6
Publisher: New Press

 A first collection of ten thematically related short stories examining the root causes of historical incidents that involved black Americans and culminated in well-known court cases. Rutgers law professor Troutt appends to the stories an informative Afterword identifying four that were based on actual Supreme Court cases and defending the technique he (justly) calls ``storytelling scholarship.'' The tales themselves, which travel in time from preCivil War days to 1994 (with the O.J. Simpson trial well underway), employ a pleasing variety of subjects, omniscient and involved narrators, and racially mixed protagonists, but several are marred by accusatory climactic authorial interpolations. Troutt's imaginative power displays itself immediately in the opening story (``Glow in the Dark''), in which a slave is tempted to run away by the rope that binds him to a sleeping deputy sheriff. Though the surreal fantasy is itself handled skillfully, the narrating voice uses a thick dialect that impedes a reader's progress through the tale. Many of its companion pieces are much better, including ``The Bargain'' (about a black-white partnership destroyed by segregated housing laws); ``For Love of Trains'' (an affecting portrayal of the afflicted family of one of the Scottsboro boys); and ``Tell About Tellin' '' (a drugged-out young black's account of the 1967 Detroit riots). And in the ambitious title story, Troutt offers a rich, detailed characterization of a Yale- educated black attorney whose uncertain status in a mostly white law firm reaches a crisis point when an unfairly ``deferred'' promotion forces him to undertake a discrimination suit. More dramatic than brief summaries may make them seem, Troutt's passionately conceived tales effectively survey a broad spectrum of American life then and now, and persuasively document a continuing history of intolerance and injustice. An impressive and unusual debut performance.