cover image Going Back Home: An Artist Returns to the South

Going Back Home: An Artist Returns to the South

Toyomi Igus, Michele Wood. Children's Book Press (CA), $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-89239-137-0

Wood, an artist raised in Indiana who now lives in Atlanta, explores her family's rural Southern heritage in this unusually lyrical meditation on African American history. As Igus supplies the text for Wood's first-person narration, the art combines African decorative motifs with images from the American experience. In richly patterned paintings evocative of African fabrics, Wood depicts the emotional undercurrents of slavery, sharecropping, and the movement north; she also shows the happier rituals of church-going and wedding celebrations. Throughout, her sensuous style gives hard realities such as picking cotton and pumping water a sweet dignity. Portraits of the black cowboy Nat Love and a porch-sitting guitar player make important points about African American contributions to American history and culture. Wood's ruminations, expressed in Igus's serviceable prose, broaden the impact of the paintings, whether she is describing her grandmother's courage in eating for the first time at a formerly segregated restaurant or explaining the life-affirming symbolism that informs the memorable self-portrait that closes the book. Ages 6-12. (Sept.)