Free: And Other Stories by Anika Nailah
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Format: Hardcover, 224pp.
Publisher: Doubleday & Company, Incorporated
Pub. Date: January 2002
Reviewed by Thumper, AALBC.com
My Dear Ms. Anika Nailah,
I know, normally, that book reviews are not generally written in letterform, from the reviewer to the author. Since I have been known to take unorthodox detours, my father would have said that I was ’bein’ hardheaded’ and my grandmother would have said that I was ’bein’ contrary’, from the normal everyday-way of doing things; I'm going with my first mind. I do hope you forgive me.
I, just a few minutes ago, finished your book, Free: And Other Stories. I haven't laughed, been moved to tears, hated, loved, felt sympathy for, hoped goodwill towards so many characters in a short span of time than I have reading your book. You've written stories that we don't recognize in our everyday life, or reflect upon in our spiritual one, or aspire to become in our professional one. My eyes saw new tales that in my heart as felt familiar as an old, much loved, childhood toy of my past, recently discovered. Your stories were ones that I often long for, stories that provide other sides, dimensions and colors than those frequently heralded in today's literature.
I readily admit that the old angel and young angel at the beginning of the book caught me off guard. I didn't know what to expect, but wisdom, which I seldom use, told me to sit back and allow you to do the driving, and that you did expertly well.
In your first story Trudy, you gave me an everyday hero, Trudy, a black woman who barely held on to the anger that we all have as African-Americans who live in America, though many of us have no idea how to control or use it in ways that will benefit us. I'm glad that you told Trudy's story. It's not often that recognition of the strength that our fathers and mothers possessed in dealing with racism at a time when there were no relief, no help coming from the hills in time to save them. A time when swallowing pride, yet holding on to ones dignity and life was the finest line anyone could walk. In relation to Professor, I was struck by your knowledge of human nature, the beauty of the human spirit, the melding of the unlikely combination of dreams, hopes and stark reality. Free. Free is a powerful story. It's beautiful. I don't like funerals. I wasn't quite ready to hear Paula's story as she attended her mother's funeral. When I reached the end of the story, I was ready to dance in the streets myself. My heart went out to Eddie in your story, My Side Of The Story. I didn't live through the same situation that Eddie had to endure in My Side Of The Story. Everything in his world had changed; the love he had been given had changed. Eddie was 11 and truly alone. I couldn't help but sympathize with him.
Free: And Other Stories is a wonderful collection of stories that gave voice to stories often silent and unexplored. The stories were written with a clear insight into human nature. Ms. Nailah you possess an excellent eye and ear for dialogue, along with the skill to zero into the most quiet, poignant center of everyday-to-day experience written in elegant, graceful yet economic prose that remained true to the characters and their stories. I hated for the book to come to an end.