Kirkus Reviews QR Code
TO BE A DRUM by Evelyn Coleman Kirkus Star



Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0807580074
Publisher: Whitman

The drum is a mytho-poetic symbol that links people to their African roots and to the rhythm of the earth, or so Daddy Wes tells his children, Mat and Martha. In broad sweeps of history--covering slavery, war, civil rights--and in the struggle for intellectual and artistic pursuits, Daddy Wes declares that the underlying heartbeat of a people is the drum. Metaphorically extending the idea, he explains that when the literal drum was taken from the slaves, the rhythm was internalized: ""When we talked to each other, we made our speech drums. When we stitched our quilts, we made our hands drums."" The message hovers, rising from the core of African-American experience, even when the image becomes abstract, even when the moralizing momentarily overtakes the drumbeat. That's the moment, in this joyful and robust chronicle, to turn to the art, where the energetic montages bustle with multi-textured backgrounds and figures, employing cloth, cotton, old buttons, sisal, wool, clay, and more, in theatrical, pulsing settings.