cover image Love Like Gumbo

Love Like Gumbo

Nancy Rawles. Fjord Press, $14 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-940242-75-3

Set in South Central Los Angeles in 1978, Rawles's bittersweet debut poignantly details a young woman's coming-of-age in a lovable but overbearing family. Grace Broussard is 20, and she's desperate to cut ties with her hair-obsessed, lala-dancing, gumbo-eating Creole clan, transplanted from Louisiana. She's devised an extravagant ""Ten Point Plan"" to ostracize herself from kith and kin. It includes skipping Mass, moving in with her Mexican lesbian lover and, most important, refusing to eat her mother's gumbo, an act that is unthinkable to any Broussard. But the cantankerous ghost of her late father, T-Papa, isn't about to let his youngest daughter stray from the flock so easily--at least not before she brings some gumbo to his grave. With straightforward yet lyrical prose, Rawles meanders deftly through the swampy Broussard past, where dead relatives and Creole folklore mix equally with racial prejudice and family pride. Each Broussard comes vividly to life, proffering wisdom and illustrating Grace's uniqueness among a diverse group of distinct individuals. The familiar lesson here is that each person adds his or her own special spice to the family pot, and that neither would be quite right without the other. Through Grace's struggle to understand herself and her family, Rawles tells a solid, candidly funny and touching story that marks the emergence of a talented new novelist. (Nov.)