Nouvelle Soul: Short Stories

Barbara Summers, Author
Barbara Summers, Author Amistad Press $22.95 (247p) ISBN 978-1-56743-003-5
Paperback - 978-1-56743-043-1
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A simplistic prose style and weak structure hamper many of the 24 stories in one of the first offerings from this new press, Summers's fiction debut. Set in various American cities and in Paris, the entries center on modern African Americans, whether working- or middle-class or affluent. The most interesting works deal with historical figures: Paul Robeson and his son are the subjects of ``The Overcoat,'' while ``Free Skies'' chronicles the life and mysterious death of Bessie Coleman, the first African American to earn an aviator's license. Elsewhere, plots dramatize social issues--one of the protagonists in ``Help'' is a battered woman; the narrator of ``Me and Superman'' is homeless; various characters allude to the problems of being dark-skinned in predominantly light-skinned families--but Summers's narrative gifts are not strong enough to elevate these complex situations above the stereotypical. ``Help,'' for example, ends in melodrama, while the narrator of ``Me and Superman'' unconvincingly mouths a string of cliches. Other stories overdose on irony: in ``A Good Man,'' a deceased pillar of the community receives a grand funeral during which his reputation undergoes abrupt revision, with unexpected implications for the narrator. Summers edited I Dream a World . (Dec.)
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