8 Dias Mas en Mexico!

I’m ready for my return to America. What have I done this summer besides see the Mexican sights and take photos of different/usual things? Watched three seasons of Grey’s Anatomy and Nip/Tuck. Working my way through the first season of The Sopranos. Seen quite a few movies in English with Spanish subtitles. Read a couple of books (including the completion of Middlesex) and I’m somewhere close to the middle of Gumbo, my book of African-American short stories. I planned on talking about a few of the authors of some of the stories I actually enjoyed. Might still, but you probably know all of them already. R.M. Johnson, David Anthony Durham, and Percival Everett to name a few.

I’ve been sitting here at Starbucks for a minute now. Tired of sarching the web for black book news updates. Found a couple of interesting things, but not really. Have you heard about Toni Morrison’s “Bench of Memory?” Here’s an excerpt via The New York Times.

This weekend, on Sullivan’s Island, off the South Carolina coast, Ms. Morrison, the Nobel laureate, and some 300 people held a memorial ceremony to dedicate her long-awaited “bench by the road.” The crowd included members of the Toni Morrison Society, National Park Service rangers, Ms. Morrison’s friends and family, and people from Charleston and nearby areas. They gathered Saturday afternoon under a blazing sun, accompanied by the rhythms of African drums, for a service that included the pouring of libations and a daisy wreath cast into the water to remember their ancestors . . .

“It’s never too late to honor the dead,” said Ms. Morrison, 77, the author of eight novels, as she sat down on the 6-foot-long, 26-inch-deep black steel bench facing the Intracoastal Waterway. “It’s never too late to applaud the living who do them honor,” she said. “This is extremely moving to me.”

The bench was secured by the National Park Service, which laid the foundation that included a bronze plaque explaining its significance. It was the first entry in the “Bench by the Road” project, created by the Toni Morrison Society, a nonprofit group of scholars and readers dedicated to examining Ms. Morrison’s work. The society, which was also holding a conference in nearby Charleston, plans in the next five years to call on individuals, corporations and community groups to help them place benches at 10 sites.

The spots under consideration have significance in Ms. Morrison’s novels and in black history. They include Fifth Avenue in Harlem, where the Silent Parade protesting the East St. Louis, Ill., riots was held in 1917 (featured in the novel “Jazz”) and the site of Emmett Till’s 1955 murder in Mississippi, which helped galvanize the civil rights movement. (Read more . . .)

Gumbo, edited by Marita Golden and E. Lynn Harris, has allowed me to read excerpts from a few known novels, re-read some stuff I’ve already read, and it has also introduced me to a few slightly familiar/unknown authors and works. Only halfway through and so far Nelly Rosario’s excerpt is my overall favorite. Of course I knew of the author and her work through mentions/associations with Angie Cruz, but I’d never actually read her work before recent. Have you heard of Song of the Water Saints?

“Invasions – 1916”

Graciela and Silvio stood hand in hand on El Malecón, sea breeze polishing their faces. Silvio hurled stones out to the waves and Graciela bunched up her skirt to search for more pebbles. Her knees were ashy and she wore her spongy hair in four knots. A rusty lard can filled with pigeon peas, label long worn from trips to the market, was by her feet. Silvio’s straw hat was in Graciela’s hands, and quickly, she turned to toss it to the water. The hat fluttered like a hungry seagull, then was lapped up by foam. Silvio’s kiss pinned Graciela against the railing.

It was a hazy day. The hot kissing made Graciela squint against the silver light. Beyond her lashes, Silvio was a sepia prince.

–That yanqui over there’s lookin’ at us, he murmured into Graciela’s mouth. He pulled out his hand from the rip in her skirt. Graciela turned to see a pink man standing a few yards away from them. She noticed that the yanqui wore a hat and a vest–he surely did not seem to be a Marine. When she was with Silvio, Graciela forgot to worry about anyone telling on her to Mai and Pai, much less panic over yanquis and their Marine boots scraping the cobblestones of the Colonial Quarter.

Passion burned stronger than fear. Graciela turned back to Silvio.

–Forget him. Her pelvis dug into his until she felt iron.

Graciela and Silvio were too lost in their tangle of tongues to care that a few yards away, the yanqui was glad for a brief break from the brutal sun that tormented his skin. With her tongue tracing Silvio’s neck, Graciela couldn’t care less that Theodore Roosevelt’s “soft voice and big stick” on Latin America had dipped the yanqui the furthest south he had ever been from New York City. Silvio’s hands crawled back into the rip in Graciela’s skirt; she would not blush if she learned that the yanqui spying on them had already photographed the Marines stationed on her side of the island, who were there to “order and pacify,” in all their debauchery; that dozens of her fellow Dominicans somberly populated the yanqui’s photo negatives; and that the lush Dominican landscape had left marks on the legs of his tripod. Of no interest to a moaning Graciela were the picaresque postcard views that the yanqui planned on selling in New York and, he hoped, in France and Germany. And having always been poor and anonymous herself, Graciela would certainly not pity the yanqui because his still lifes, nature shots, images of battleships for the newspapers had not won him big money or recognition.

–Forget the goddamned yanqui, I said. Graciela squeezed Silvio’s arm when his lips broke suction with hers.

–He’s comin’ over here, Silvio said. He turned away from Graciela to hide his erection against the seawall. Graciela watched the man approach them. He had a slight limp. Up close, she could see that his skin was indeed pink and his hair was a deep shade of orange. Graciela had never seen a real yanqui up close. She smiled and folded her skirt so that the rip disappeared.

(Read more from this excerpt . . .)

Learn more about Song of the Water Saints here or read an interview with Rosario here.

Happy reading, ya’ll!


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