Gospel Choirs: Psalms of Survival for an Alien Land Called Home

Derrick A. Bell, Author, Derek Bell, Author Basic Books $23 (240p) ISBN 978-0-465-02412-4
Can gospel music-emanating from black culture but speaking with a universal optimism-be employed to find solutions to the poverty and racial hostility that constitute black America's ""greatest crisis since the end of Reconstruction?"" In this innovative collection of essays and parables that include his fictional lawyer Geneva Crenshaw (this is the third of his Geneva Chronicles, after Faces at the Bottom of the Well), legal scholar Bell uses storytelling and gospel music references to attempt new insights. His style sometimes devolves into didactic speechifying or predictable dissing (taking on Rush Limbaugh types), but he makes resonant points. He criticizes what he sees as the spurious logic behind the Contract with America and The Bell Curve. He reminds us of the rich legacy of those, like Paul Robeson, who dissented from black leadership. He imagines himself in a race riot, after which fellow blacks find liberation by reinterpreting the racist slogan ""Nigger Free"" as symbol rather than curse. Most interesting are his characters' modest proposals for a monitor to tax America's use of ""cultural expressions of subordinated peoples of color,"" and for a shield to ensure nonexploitive sex among black folk. In the end, Bell's somewhat scattershot approach to issues is more metaphorical than practical, but that's why he's chosen this alternative style, and his voice still has wisdom. Author tour. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1996
Release date: 05/01/1996
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-465-02413-1
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