cover image Black Chameleon

Black Chameleon

Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton. Holt, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-82785-2

Poet Mouton (Newsworthy) combines family history and personal storytelling in this lyrical memoir. Her prose crackles as she fuses fables with stories to create a spirited portrait of Black American womanhood. Mouton recounts her early aptitude for wordplay, describing her sharp wit at age five and the punishments that often accompanied it: “I got it honest, this tongue. This way to weave words into something more than a masterpiece of theater.” Her stories feature goddesses, divinity, and Black womanhood as she recounts her mother swapping out church-approved clothing for “a golden-mustard kaftan draped over kitten-heeled Jesus sandals,” her seventh-grade picture day request of straightened hair just like the girls on magazine covers, and her musings on how she was formed (comparing her legs to the Egyptian Goddess Hathor’s “powerful thighs” and contemplating the Sumerian creation story of Ninti). Throughout, Mouton honors and complicates her heritage while seeking to understand her place within it: “[Some] would tell you that this is why you must work twice as hard to get half as much. But I know that half is not the holy grail. Tell a half-full belly that it is satisfied and see how it grumbles. I did not come from the wombs of half-baked women.” The writing is unconventional and exquisite, and sure to enthrall readers of Jesmyn Ward. (Mar.)