This was a magnificient and lyrical streetcar through the streets and lives that made up black D.C. from the early days to the Carter administration. I delighted in this collection of stories, of lives, seen in glimpses, as if I was riding a streetcar in the evening, catching snatches of their lives through lamp-lit windows.
These stories, told through the voices of young and old women, felt in the hopes of young and old men, were a delicious morsel in this start to 2011. Edward P. Jones is masterful with the language and like an artist, paints a picture that is forever etched in memory.
The writer's pen was a visual map of words that led me to feel as if I was transported "right down the middle of the street" with my heart intersecting with the wanting and needing of something right "up there."
It was hard for me to choose just one story. I like the little girl who raised pigeons with just her father as her guide through growing up and I saw years ahead of the older women who just wanted to have a chance of love, whose hearts still fluttered at the possibility of connection.
I've only visited D.C. twice, both times in a pre 9/11 world when one could just walk up on the capital steps or stroll freely through the monuments that are nowhere near Northeast, Northwest, or Southeast or any of the outer neighborhoods stretching into Maryland. Mr. Jones, however, brought these streets and neighborhoods to life for me. I could see myself in The Store as one who would have come to get my weekly wares, watching the young man given a daily, weekly chance to be somebody, eventually owning and passing on.
It was the story of neighborhoods, the things that make up those stories we tell around the holiday table, that we pass on, that add the thread to the tapestry of our connected lives. It reminded me a little of my time in Chicago, riding the "L" train from Loop out to Oak Park and wondering about the lives of the people in the homes, flats, and high rises we passed.
Mr. Jones added an important work to the black lexicon. This is truly a literary masterpiece and one that I will share with my son.
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