When will the Constitution’s racial fractions become a healthy whole?
Multiaward-winning poet Nelson (How I Discovered Poetry, 2014, etc.) attempts to answer this still-vexing question. Sixteen-year-old Connor Bianchini casually believes in his family- and religion-confirmed half-Irish, half-Italian identity. Connor’s father, Tony, finds out differently when his mother, Lucia, dies and leaves him with the inheritance of pilot’s wings, a gold class ring, and a letter, in which Lucia states that Tony is the “fruit of great love” between her and an airman nicknamed Ace. Research leads Connor and his father to the discovery that Ace’s class ring came from Wilberforce University, a historically black university, and his wings may have come from his service as one of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. Whereas Connor embraces his “new” black ancestor, though, Tony and his other son (Connor’s half brother), Carlo, react negatively: Carlo tells his father that “bad news should be told privately,” and Tony literally has a stroke. The author’s meticulous verse is the perfect vehicle to convey the devastating fragility of racial and familial identity in an America where interracial love is still divided through the problem of the color line.
Readers will join Nelson’s protagonist in quietly hoping for that healing, too. (Verse fiction. 12-16)