With vivid dialogue and finely drawn characters, Jackson's stories and essays slam readers into a gritty world where choosing an identity provides a type of control. In "Head Down, Palm Up," the narrator, who reflects that "without a name, I ain't certified," ironically calls himself Champ. But he then shakes down his mother, a streetwalker, and the startling conclusion confirms his acceptance of his uncle's world of pimping. The title story, "Oversoul," raises and dashes prospects of moral redemption: an unnamed jailed man starting parole is inspired by a visiting speaker and embarks on a hopeless job hunt. But disillusion sets in when the speaker derides his message of encouragement. The author enters the realm of social satire in "Presidents," where the transition from one administration to another parallels the efforts of a would-be suicide to find stability in life. Jackson's focus throughout is located firmly in the urban African-American experience, but his themes are universal and he finds significance in the telling of one's story. As he affirms in "Portrait of a Lifeguard," "our stories are paramount not only to our prosperity but to our chance of survival." The reader cannot fail to find that sincerity reflected in this standout collection.