Black humor (double the meaning) races alongside black rage in these fifteen stories from novelist Hal Bennett, the griot of equal-opportunity housing projects in Burnside-Cousinsville, Virginia, and grimmer points north. Bennett's poor-black scrambles (for money and respect) and rich-black scratchings (for light-skinned gentility) take place in a world where the ""white man causes everything. . . even when he is dead."" And quite a few white--and black--men get dead in these stories, since attempts at black-white rapprochement (""The Woman Who Loved Cockroaches,"" ""The Day My Sister Hid the Ham"") nearly always end disastrously--and the supplicating ""Ghost of Martin Luther King"" must walk as a brotherhood reminder. In ""Where Are the White People?,"" the black response to this sense of white control is superstition: ju ju women have their own methods for Causing things to happen. Only one of the tales celebrates achievement--a woman buses an entire school building (an emotional issue because she ""entered womanhood on the back seat of a school bus"")--and most involve either hopeless, frenzied pipedreams, displaced angers, or sexual confusion. This is an artful, but entirely approachable collection; except for an occasional overreach into too-pat allegory, Bennett's work steams with real people, real problems, real humor (the tri-ethnic Big-Ass contest), and the real voices of Americans caught between unacceptable pasts and unfathomable futures.