BOY AT THE WINDOW by Owen Dodson


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Dodson's empathic story of a little black boy growing up in a mixed Brooklyn neighborhood of the Twenties was first published as an adult novel in 1951, but now seems more at home on a juvenile list. Dodson tunes you in on nine-year-old Coin's consciousness through a small upset at school, his first unsettling encounter with the word nigger, and his musings on the different colors of laughter. (""Once, after he had gone to bed, he heard his mother laugh sweet pale blue."") But soon Mama's illness takes over Coin's thoughts and neither the preacher/healer recommended by visiting therapist Mrs. Quick, nor Coin's own prayers when at last he sees ""the little man"" and becomes a Christian, can cure her paralyzed arm and leg or prevent her death about halfway through the book. Much of this takes place in church, especially during Mama's funeral, when the Deacon's eulogy, the congregation's reactions, the funeral hymns, and, suddenly, the tune of ""Yes, We Have No Bananas"" all mix in Coin's head until he's sure he's going crazy. Afterwards, sensing his father's withdrawal and his older sister's resentment of her charges, Coin is sent to Washington to stay with a blind uncle whose friends get the boy drunk in a bar--and this scene is rendered with the same hypnotic effectiveness as those in church. But Coin is more than a passive register, and in the end as he prepares to go off on his own you won't question his strength. An affecting, sharply remembered sequence in a receptive child's growing up.

Pub Date: Nov. 28th, 1977
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux