A KWANZAA FABLE by Eric V. Copage


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New York Times Magazine editor Copage follows up 1991's much-lauded Kwanzaa: An African-American Celebration of Culture and Cooking with an uninspired meant-to-inspire YA-ish coming-of-age story set during the African-American holiday. Thirteen-year-old Jordan Garrison is growing up in an idealistically drawn middle-class black suburb with his father, grandmother, and eight-year-old twin brother and sister. Jordan's mother died just after the twins were born, and his father is now the driving force of the household, cooking up big plates of jambalaya, reprimanding Jordan for not properly drying the lettuce for the salad, and constantly reminding the boy of his impending responsibility ""to become a Black man."" Jordan can't understand what seems to be his father's obsession with black manhood, and when his father suffers a fatal heart attack, he no longer has a chance to ask him about it. With his father gone, though, the pressures toward manhood only increase. Snackman, the dashiki-wearing, African-history-espousing owner of the corner store, gives Jordan an aging piece of kente cloth to inspire him to an awareness of race. Snackman is locally famous for his window displays on black history, especially during Kwanzaa, the late December harvest holiday invented in 1966. Jordan's responsibilities are also increased when his grandmother takes an evening job and Jordan has to babysit the twins every night. Eventually, he rebels against these pressures by hanging out with some bad kids, skipping classes, and showing disrespect to Snackman. When, just before Kwanzaa, Jordan's friend J.B. challenges him to steal $500 from the store, Jordan must prove whether he's now ready to become ""a black man."" The language is stiff, the symbolism thick, and the revelations of the meanings of Kwanzaa will be too scant for most readers: altogether, a ho-hum holiday tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Morrow