My One Good Nerve

Ruby Dee, Author, Ossie Davis, Introduction by John Wiley & Sons $22.95 (178p) ISBN 978-0-471-31704-3
In December the co-authors will mark their 50th wedding anniversary, an almost unheard of milestone for two stars of the performing arts this century. Even before their marriage, according to Davis, ""we were in love, head over heels, and stuck with each other forever!"" Rather than just telling the story of a successful marriage, however, their book (related in alternate voices) provides a panorama of the 20th-century African American experience, or, as they label it, The Struggle. Both socialists and militant battlers for African American rights, Davis and Dee have known, and worked with, such leaders as W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, Martin Luther King and Malcom X. And they haven't shied away from the consequences of taking a public stand: during the flowering of McCarthyism, Dee was called a Communist sympathizer in the press. Still, with refreshing honesty, they steer clear of self-congratulation, as when Davis tells how, as a little boy, in exchange for a few pieces of peanut brittle, he acquiesced as some racist local cops mistreated him. Of course, Dee and Davis also chronicle their careers as pioneers on stage, film and television, from their involvement with New York's African American theater scene during the Depression to their work alongside stars like Sidney Poitier and Lena Horne. From Davis's youth as a ""Negro boy surrounded by white hoods, burning crosses, and stories that brought the smell of burning flesh,"" to Dee's concern for the future of African American theater, this is a compelling read, effectively evoking the challenges and rewards that have attended the authors' roles as black leaders over the past 60 years. Photos not seen by PW. Appendix, index. Agents, Betty McCort and Susan Crawford. (Nov.) FYI: Also out this November is Ruby Dee's My One Good Nerve, a collection of verse based on her one-woman show of that title. (Wiley, $16.95 192p ISBN 0-471-31704-7)
Reviewed on: 11/09/1998
Release date: 11/01/1998
Paperback - 978-0-88378-114-2
Open Ebook - 178 pages - 978-0-470-31083-0
Paperback - 194 pages - 978-1-62045-694-1
Hardcover - 194 pages - 978-1-62045-778-8
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