Naming the New World

Calvin Baker, Author St. Martin's Press $18.95 (118p) ISBN 978-0-312-15178-2
Related by ancestry and by their common story, the African American voices in this brilliant debut novel, form a turbulent current of racial memory that flows through two continents, three centuries and incalculable terror, suffering and grief. A nameless African progenitor searches for the home of the great tree planted as a seed by his grandfather, and for his name, which he eventually comes to know as River. His story--told in timeless, mythlike language--weaves in and out of the counterpointing narratives of his succeeding generations. Ampofo, a new slave, describes the last hours of his life; Sally, also a slave, tells why she killed Ampofo while he still had the heart of a free man; Tom, the biracial son of a plantation owner, relates the torment of being caught between two races. In contemporary times, Richard, the emotionally fragile son of a prominent government official, goes to Africa in search of home after his younger brother dies in Vietnam; Robert, an upper-middle-class businessman, struggles between filial love for his big brother, Brenndan, and revulsion for Brenndan's drug-fueled murder of a kid who cut in front of him in line. Although brief, this tale is epic in spirit. Through his virtuostic creation of myriad ancestral voices, Baker proves himself a powerful new male voice in African American literature. (Feb.) FYI: Baker is a 24-year-old staff writer for People magazine.
Reviewed on: 02/02/1997
Release date: 02/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 128 pages - 978-0-312-18140-6
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