Respects the power, creativity and flexibility of black women

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Tara M. Sting Fellow

John Morey

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Tara M. Stringfillo presents this ruthless and kind start with a dedication to the daughter of George Floyd, Guyana, who was six years old when her father was killed in 2020 by a police officer on Minneapolis Street. “I wrote you a story of black myth,” it begins. “I know if you’re still not ready to read […] This book will be here whenever you want.

Stingfillo has reason to get acquainted with Guyana. Her own grandfather was killed by white police when her mother was five years old. He was the first black murder detective in Memphis, Tennessee, and served in the entire Black Army unit that helped liberate the children’s camp at Buchenwald.

In Memphis, Stringfillo skillfully weaved the voices of four women over three generations. Her wives are bright, strong and funny, exposing the legacy of racial violence not only within the family or hometown but also nationally. Their men are gone: killed, imprisoned or severely injured and tortured to make a living. Women push, work, finish, laugh, tell stories.

The novel opens with a trip to Memphis. Ten-year-old John, her sister and mother leave her father and go to her parents’ house to live with her aunt in August. The city illuminates under the convincing prose of Stringfellow. “The house looked alive,” and the smell of honey in the garden, the warmth of summer, and the hummingbird arranged against the mass realities of 1990’s urban America.

The novel is, in many respects, a portrait of an artist as a constellation Roman, a young black woman.

John and his sister sleep in a room where the women in their family have been torn apart for generations. Covered in these stories, John develops his artistic sensibilities, sketching and painting women in his life, their hands, their work, their flexibility. Attacked as a very young child, the young sketches are ultimately a possible way to forgive. The novel is, for the most part, a portrait of Künstlerroman, an artist as a young black woman.

After dedicating himself to Guyana Floyd, Stingfellow referred to Tony Morrison. The Black Woman, Morrison writes, “There was nothing to return to: no masculinity, no whiteness, no femininity, nothing. And from this profound destruction of her reality she may have invented herself. Memphis Back Literary Reaches mothers and potential daughters, respects the power, creativity and resilience of black women.

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