cover image Native in a Strange Land: Trials and Tremors

Native in a Strange Land: Trials and Tremors

Wanda Coleman / Author Black Sparrow Press $16.95 (0p) ISBN 97

Satire and journalism are alive and well in L.A., at least when poet Coleman (African Sleeping Sickness) is doing the biting and reporting. Her collection of articles, essays, columns and interviews is more than a paean to her birthplace. She gives us L.A. as a microcosm of what America is today and where it is heading. The picture is not always hopeful. She describes the suicide of a friend as a ""failed struggle in a metropolis gone mad, where the only politics is survival and success is measured in multiples of zero."" Hers is a sociology of stories, anecdotes and observations, but her extraordinary eye for detail and personal perspective universalizes her experience and makes her observations both trenchant and reliable. She has a progressive agenda that is insistent but reasonably argued. And, even though she describes herself as ""hard boiled, quiet, dismally realistic,"" she has a wry sense of humor. One of her Swiftian solutions to the plight of inner cities is to start schools for wanna-be thugstas. ""How about a school that teaches the well-heeled the ins and outs of hard-core urban warfare?"" She reasons that the schools would give employment to gangstas, ex-cons and rehab program internees. Attendees would come from the ranks of novelists, Hollywood directors, talk-show hosts, scriptwriters and amateur slummers. Although she is sardonic when it comes to politics and groups, she is tender and hopeful when it comes to individuals. In a letter to the late Hakim A. Jamal, who was her first mentor after Watts in the summer of 1965, she writes: ""I will do my level best to clothe those bone-cold statistics in human flesh."" ""I have kept The Faith, Jamal,"" she concludes, ""but it hasn't kept me."" (Dec.)