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Friday, July 9, 2010

#BookReview: A Taste of Honey: Stories - Jabari Asim

When Jabari Asim rolled through St. Louis earlier this year, I didn't attend the book signing because I hadn't yet read the book.  Now I really wish I had gone just to hear him read.  Billed as a set of sixteen short stories, A Taste of Honey is so much more than that.  It would be impossible to tell just one story and not wonder where it leads to or how the characters in that particular story affect characters in other stories.

Set in 1967 Gateway City, residents and those familiar with St. Louis will immediately recognize street names and neighborhood distinctions sprinkled throughout.  With a healthy cast of characters who could all be the main character, it is young Crispus that grabs my attention.  Though all stories are told in third person, when reading this I felt as if they were being told through the eyes of this young man.

There is the story of Rose, a young woman with the voice of an angel who lives to sing at church on Sundays, but spends the rest of the week pretending that her husband isn't as bad as he seems.  There's the friendship between the Reverend Washington and the notorious gangster, Ananais Goode, that no one can figure out. The neighborhood is rounded out with Guts Tolliver, the hit man with a sense of humor; Ray Mortimer, a white cop patrolling the beat; and several others that make this an absolutely delightful read.

What did you like about this book?
The author is a master of language and uses it to set the backdrop for an absolutely fascinating take on what life in St. Louis must have been like for African Americans, especially a nine year old boy.

What did you dislike about this book?
At just a little over 200 pages, I could have used a bit more.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Nothing.  If J. California Cooper were to decide to stop writing tomorrow, Jabari Asims could easily step into her role as the master of the short story.




205pp
Published March 2010




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