cover image The Living Is Easy

The Living Is Easy

Dorothy West. Feminist Press, $19.95 trade paper (316p) ISBN 978-1-936932-97-9

Harlem Renaissance writer West (1907–1998) first published this biting satire of the Black upper class in 1948, almost 50 years before her second book, The Wedding. The novel tackles the elitist values bred among its marginalized characters when they are left with limited opportunities for upward mobility. Cleo Judson, Southern daughter of sharecroppers, is now married to wealthy “Black Banana King” Bart Judson and lives in Boston, where she is determined to become a member of Boston’s Black elite, those who take pride in living next to white people and are unnerved by the advancing migration of Blacks from the South, driving them “to escape this plague of their own locusts.” Cleo manipulates Bart into sending money to her sisters and into buying a 10-room mansion for them all to live in, the capstone in a spending spree that sets Bart up for financial peril after WWI threatens his business. With her sisters and their children under her roof, Cleo determines to assert her will on them as the house of cards begins to sway. Skillful prose and unmitigated societal critique will keep readers engaged to the end. West’s essential classic continues to endure. (Nov.)