cover image Aquaboogie: A Novel in Stories

Aquaboogie: A Novel in Stories

Susan Straight. Milkweed Editions, $12.95 (196pp) ISBN 978-0-915943-59-3

An astute, bracing debut short-fiction collection by a white woman residing in a largely black neighborhood in Riverside, Calif., this sings of the brief happy moments and ever-looming tragedies and defeats in the lives of discretely voiced blacks chorusing here in dialect. Aspiring artist Nacho scrubs the scuzzy hallways and bathrooms of the University of Massachusetts so he can take art courses for free; before he departs for home, he spreads puddles of tenacious paint to retaliate for insults of white co-workers. Back in Rio Seco, a disoriented Nacho is teased for his ``sissy hands'' by his gardener father and cousin, and he helps relocate to seniors housing an aunt, whose home is being torn down against her will to make room for office buildings. Nine-year-old Demone's brother Max smoked up all the crack he was supposed to sell; now he puffs on a Super Kool, a cigarette dipped in embalming fluid, and escapes the drug pushers by jumping to his death in the path of a train. Donnie's basketball talent trickles out and his marriage becomes violent; Esther, a homebody who's a whiz at braiding hair and baking quiche, is challenged by her husband's latest girlfriend, an executive secretary: ``Esther's husband Joe loved him some cars. And this woman driving past loved her some Joe.'' (Oct.)