By Terri Schlichenmeyer
â€śHeads of the Colored People: Storiesâ€ť by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
$23.00 / $32.00 Canada
So what do you think?
For sure, youâ€™ve got opinions. You know what you like and what you donâ€™t like. You have ideas and choices, attractions, and things youâ€™d just as soon avoid. And sometimes, as in â€śHeads of the Colored Peopleâ€ť by Nafissa Thompson-Spires, you just donâ€™t know what to think.
For weeks â€” ever since he found a used paperback by James McCune Smith â€” Kevan Peterson had been thinking about a project. He was an artist, knew a lot of artists, and he wanted to do a book based on Smithâ€™s words. He thought about it when he spent time with his little daughter and again when he saw an online newsfeed, complete with â€śchalk outlines.â€ť But there was more to that storyâ€¦
Lucinda Johnston hoped her daughter, Fatima, might make friends easier at the private school Lucinda paid for. There was one other Black girl at the academy, and Lucinda thought friendship might happen naturally, but that girl was a bully whose mother denied her awful misbehavior. In â€śBelles Lettres,â€ť the two women square off in writing, though money talks loud. In â€śThe Bodyâ€™s Defenses Against Itself,â€ť thereâ€™s proof that the girlsâ€™ friendship wouldnâ€™t have happen as their mothers had hoped. In â€śFatima, the Biloquist: A Transformation Story,â€ť youâ€™ll think you know why.
Jilly, on the other hand, couldnâ€™t think of anything but herself.
In â€śSuicide, Watch,â€ť she couldnâ€™t decide: posting suicidal hints didnâ€™t get enough LIKEs on social media, so maybe it was time to step up her game. She didnâ€™t want to be sick or anything â€” not like that girl, Fatima, she knew in high school â€” but she did want more attention. How she was going to get it, well, that was a good question.
And Alma? Alma always thought sheâ€™d be a good mother. She was willing to go to great lengths to have a child, but in â€ś Wash Clean the Bones,â€ť worry could get the best of her â€” and of her son.
You may not know what to think when you first start â€śHeads of the Colored People.â€ť This collection of short stories initially seems a bit odd, as life meets literature in its opening story and author Nafissa Thompson-Spires pays homage to Smithâ€™s book from the mid-1800s. Indeed, her overall work here is similarly titled to his but the difference between the two is like earth and sky.
These stories glitter, every one of them.
Granted now, some donâ€™t seem to be much more than slice-of-life tales that stop for no apparent reason but that they were done. Fear not: they circle around, and you may meet characters again in a layered manner, like building a sandwich. Thatâ€™ll make you gasp, and put the book down a minute to catch your breath.
Even so, these stories arenâ€™t for everybody. If you like your fiction tied up neat with a bow, take a pass on â€śHeads of the Colored People.â€ť If you enjoy tales that play with your head a little bit, though, itâ€™s a book youâ€™ll think is perfect.
Posted 12:00 am, May 1, 2018
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