cover image Magic City Gospel

Magic City Gospel

Ashley M. Jones. Hub City, $14.95 trade paper (72p) ISBN 978-1-938235-26-9

Jones paints a sweeping picture of Southern culture in her terrific debut collection, exhibiting pride of place as well as unflinching honesty about the traumas of its historical legacy. Jones juggles the idea of the South as home with its contradictory reality, wherein the innocence of childhood is threatened by the cruelty of racism. In the poem “Nem,” Jones discusses the duality of her Southern identity, feeling like an outsider yet protected within her black community. “Inside, you tilt with excitement,” Jones writes, “You light up, a pinball machine of colloquialisms.” She continues, “you’re the only black girl in most of your classes. It is easy to blend in and stand out.” Like the collection itself, the poem showcases both the sacred and tender parts of a personal identity shaped by the South. This is also apparent in the poem “Addie, Carole, Cynthia, Denise,” in which Jones discusses the 1963 bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church and references “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” which originates from a racist pre–Civil War folk song (the Disney version of the song has been criticized for sweeping its racist origins under the rug and reinforcing racist stereotypes). Through rich imagery and fluid language, Jones paints a complete picture of the South without sugarcoating the truth. [em](Jan.) [/em]