cover image Harlem Mosaics

Harlem Mosaics

Whit Frazier. CreateSpace, $8.99 trade paper (210p) ISBN 978-1-4792-1302-3

Frazier’s witty, fresh fictionalization of the Harlem Renaissance, told from the points of view of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, is a delight. Readers follow Hughes and Hurston in New York and across the U.S. as they work on a folktale-based African-American opera together. The opera eventually becomes their controversial play, Mule Bone, and the process of writing it ruins their friendship. The conversations between the two—and among all characters—are superbly imagined (“A lie’s a story, silly. Of course my lie’ll be true. Listen.”) Frazier (Robert Johnson’s Freewheeling Jazz Funeral) brings to life important figures from the era—Bessie Smith, Thurgood Marshall, and Wallace Thurman—convincingly capturing their mannerisms and points of view, particularly on race-related issues. Minor irritations do arise, mostly in the form of awkward phrasings, but the missteps all but disappear in light of frequently superlative prose that can be sweet, piquant, gritty, and poetic (“Slim’s voice was lazy, a round plum, a sound so ripe you could taste it”). This informative, thoughtful novel is page-turning tour of a singular piece of America’s past. (BookLife)