Sacrificing intensity but gaining Scope, novelist Jones (Corregidora, Eva's Man) adds some grace notes--mostly dissonant--to the familiar dominant chord: the American black woman, her sexuality skewed by a confused heritage of rape by white men and power over black men. In both the back-home and new-opportunity worlds (the stories shift between dialect narrators and a Kafka & Eliot, college-educated voice), Sappho surfaces--as a secret slowly understood and rejected by a lesbian's growing daughter, as a possibility tentatively explored by lonely undergraduates. Porch gossip descends on an older woman (45? 50? 65?) who takes up with a handsome, homosexual teenager; a taciturn mental patient (""Asylum"") and a young writer confronting her sexuality while house-sitting (""A Quiet Place for the Summer"") share the stigma of the cold woman. Only in two stories does the male-female tie show promise: the fairy-tale romance of the reformed drifter who returns to reward his selfless lady friend; a truce in the spatting between a beleaguered, light-skinned ""White Rat"" and his roving ""light yeller woman with chicken scratch hair."" Most of Jones' slang-slinging, run-on, musical voices connect with ease--oddly, her put-upon, ironical, middle-aged men are best--while the educated females, especially a wife determined to save her schizophrenic husband with love, miss just slightly. The overall effect is that of a gifted, engaging writer trying on the short-story form for size, finding some neat fits--some sharp, some soft--and some shapes (the overdone monologue of a not-so-retarded boy, the schizophrenic's own version of the above-mentioned story) that don't suit her at all.