You Made Me Love You: Selected Stories, 1981–2018

John Edgar Wideman. Scribner, $30 (496p) ISBN 978-1-9821-4891-1
This career-spanning collection of work by Wideman (Brother’s Keeper), with a revelatory foreword by critic and scholar Walton Muyumba, offers a stunning showcase of Wideman’s range. In stories selected from 1981’s Damballah up through 2018’s American Histories, Wideman conveys a mastery of gritty realism, freewheeling blues, erudite autofiction, and African American mysticism, often grounded in a semi-fictional version of the Homewood section of Pittsburgh, the historically Black neighborhood where Wideman grew up. “Solitary” chronicles a mother’s daylong ordeal to visit her son in prison, while in “Daddy Garbage,” an iceball vendor’s dog is hell-bent on eating from garbage cans: “Strayhorn knew it was less holding on to puppy ways than it was stone craziness, craziness age nor nothing else ever going to change.” Wideman shines brightest in pieces that tunnel through history or the narrator’s consciousness as they build to their reveals, such as “Maps and Ledgers,” in which a writing professor ruminates on stories such as that of an ancestor who escaped from slavery. Muyumba convincingly encourages close reading of “Damballah,” about an unnamed enslaved boy who honors the severed head of a man punished for practicing West African rituals: “listen to the head,” Muyumba writes. If there were any doubts Wideman belongs to the American canon, this puts them to bed. Agent: Jin Auh, the Wylie Agency. (April)
Reviewed on : 02/11/2021
Release date: 04/06/2021
Genre: Fiction
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