LET THE LION EAT STRAW by Ellease Southerland


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A lyrical, emotive odyssey of an American black woman--from childhood in the rural South to death in New York, from the lilt of the old songs to the Heybob-a-ree-bob tension of the ghetto. Old midwife Mamma Habblesham, in North Carolina, has to let little Abeba (""African Flower"") go to her N.Y. mama Angela, and Angela can sometimes be a hateful woman. But in Brooklyn (where the street boys do rock-'n'-roll ""looking into each other's eyes singing serious as cats""), Abeba discovers that she also has a wonderful New York Daddy, who gives her goodness. So there are some great days for young, musical Abeba, like the arrival day of a piano, swinging up to their window, ""black and shining in the May sun."" But Daddy dies, and it's bad times growing up. Angela dreams of Abeba playing piano in a concert hall, but Abeba, now grown, marries preaching brother Daniel, whose voice, ""smooth purple, seemed to come inside her heart."" Bad days again when awful shocks--Abeba's confession about rape by her uncle; Daniel's brother's unjust arrest--drive the vulnerable Daniel insane. He barely lives through the white cruelty of a Florida mental hospital, then returns north, starts a bakery with his growing family, and--best of all--becomes pastor of his own church. It's there, in that church, on one Easter, that Abeba, exalted, sees her 15 children, singing and drumming, gathering ""their spirits around her like bright yellow suns."" With speech, sights, and sounds drifting up from a gently lyrical African consciousness, this brief, rich first novel sings on the page.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1979
ISBN: 0060724218
Publisher: Scribners