Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Glorious by Bernice L. McFadden

I eagerly started this book by Bernice L. McFadden.  Having read and reviewed some of her other work, knew I was in for an emotional, provocative, and thoughtful experience.

Book CoverGlorious left me wondering if life in America will ever change as I wrestled with themes of love, loss, anger, hate, guilt, and injustice.

Still intrigued by the telling of women's stories, especially those of writers, I expected it to be different.  Perhaps McFadden was attempting to get me remember that not all truth is told.  I think she has invited me to look at older people differently, to realize they have lived a life that we  should cherish and remember.

Turning page after page, I had these images of the women in the stories and felt like I was gathering snippets of information loosely centered around the life of Easter Venetta Barnett, the protagonist and briefly celebrated fictional writer dubbed E.V. Gibbs.  In journeying with her from Waycross, Georgia to Harlem, New  York, back to Waycross, I felt as if I was peaking through a window, maybe reading a few journal pages hidden under her bed, stolen and plagiarized by her white benefactor.

Then I became angry at the injustice done to her and perhaps the injustice done to other black female writers of the Harlem Renaissance era, who were only able to leave us with a handful of volumes. Perhaps, they, like the fictional Easter, were silenced because their voice was stolen by a jealous, vengeful, talent-less white woman who really wanted to be consumed by the energy of the era.  A white woman, who for all her money and not-so-secret Creole lesbian lover, could not force Easter, her secretary, to share her most intimate writing with her.  The woman, Meredith Tomas, steals what rightfully belongs to Easter, silencing her for the forty years of silence in the book.

When I was reading the book, I kept thinking about Zora Neale Hurston, her birthday having recently passed. I remembered Nella Larsen and wondered if Glorious was based on her life.  Or the lives of the countless others who put pen to paper.  In modern times, I thought about the book The Help and the allegation that a white woman stole the stories and life of her black maid, profited off it, and allowed accusation to fall on the black woman.  The same way Meredith did to Easter.

Our lives, our stories are rich, only those who have truly lived it can tell the story.  No one who hasn't experienced it can bring the cadence to page the way this little book reminds us.

It begins and ends at historic periods in American history, giving us snippets of people, places and times of change.

Bernice L. McFadden is an expert storyteller, evoking emotions of wonder, challenge, and change.


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