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Paperback: 250 pages
Publisher: Akashic Books (May 1, 2010)
Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
Reviewed by Thumper
I recently finished Bernice McFadden's latest novel, Glorious. Its title is exactly what this novel is, glorious. The novel about a black woman writer at the beginning of the Harlem Renaissance is tremendous; right now my mind is fuzzy with praise for McFadden. I am full of joy right now. Bernice McFadden continues her upward trajectory in becoming one of America's foremost authors! Glorious should count as her masterpiece!
The story of Easter Venetta Bartlett's life began in Waycross, Georgia, at the turn of the century when Jack Johnson the first black heavyweight boxing champion won the crown. After her mother's death, Easter leaves home and leads a vagabond type of existence before making a home for herself in Harlem, where she eventually becomes a celebrated writer. She had the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time—1922 Harlem and the dawning of its cultural explosion on the American psyche. Easter experiences love, betrayal, heartaches, hopes and misfortune along the way. When Easter finally leaves Harlem, it is in disgrace.
McFadden is mine. I have loved her books for years! Her books, which featured her fabulous creation Sugar and her novel The Warmest December, are included in my "favorite books of all time" list. Glorious is an ass-wiper! It's not just the writing, for it is superb that in itself is not a surprise because McFadden was the shit straight out of the box with her debut novel, Sugar. Glorious wasn't written; in as much as it was born, entered the world screaming its head off after someone smacked it on its ass. The story has movement and flows like the wind that changes the seasons. The narrative isn't a dominant voice, it's a conductor that alerts and directs the instruments and cues the characters when it's their turn to sing, as a solo, or part of a trio or duet.
The characters are lively, none more so than Easter. If you are a student of the Harlem Renaissance, the character of Easter will be familiar. Easter's life is a composite of Zora Neale Hurston and Nella Larsen. McFadden perfectly blended fact with fiction in order to create the character. Even though Easter shared some of the same histories as Hurston and Larsen, Easter is uniquely Easter, a completely separate individual. McFadden did not only perform this type of composition with Easter, she incorporated historical events and historical figures into the novel as well. For instance Marcus Garvey and his assassination attempt is a part of Easter's personal life. There was a brief period of time when I was reading the novel that I had to remind myself that this story was not real. McFadden had blurred the line between history and fiction so perfectly that it barely existed.
Glorious is easily, hands down, one of the best books of the year. Wrapped in a story that is poignant, powerful and bittersweet, Glorious is a shout out for recognition and celebration of the Harlem Renaissance. I have not felt this special since I first read J. California Cooper's splendid short story collection, some love, some place, sometime, well over twenty years ago. When it comes to stories and novels, McFadden doesn't know what a misstep is. With Glorious, McFadden surpassed any and all expectations I had for her. I cannot recommend Glorious strong enough. I would shout it from the rooftops; put it up on billboards if I could.
I have always believed that one good book will lead to another. Glorious is no exception to that homespun rule. I LOVE the Harlem Renaissance and the literature and art that it produced. What great works! After reading Glorious, it is apparent that McFadden loves this era as well. If after reading Glorious, you are interested in the Harlem Renaissance, McFadden mentions a number of books about the Harlem Renaissance or books that were written during the renaissance in her afterword that are worth checking out. EXPLORE! At the risk of being rude, I would also recommend The Messenger Reader, The Crisis Reader, and The Opportunity Reader; anthologies edited by Shondra Wilson.
Read another AALBC.com Book Review written by Idrissa Uqdah