Mojo: Conjure Stories
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edited by Nalo Hopkinson
Format: Paperback, 352pp
Pub. Date: March 2003
Publisher: Warner Books, Incorporated
Reviewed by Thumper
Mojo: Conjure Stories, edited by author Nalo Hopkinson is an excellent anthology of short stories that include the occult, folktales and voodoo. The common threads connecting each of the 19 stories are variations on the themes of the unpredictability and cruelty of human nature -- the heartbreak and pain that come with living life. Every entry in Mojo: Conjure Stories is outstanding, making the anthology simply unforgettable.
I love anthologies and have come to appreciate them even more over the years. Like anything else, there are good and bad anthologies. I won't focus on the bad ones, but a good anthology is invaluable. Its exceptional contributions can be timeless, often rendering the anthology as a dependable reference. Also a high-quality anthology will introduce the reader to new authors or previously published authors the reader is not familiar with. I came to know some wonderful authors by first reading their work in an anthology, including Clarence Major, All Night Visitor, Such Was The Season and Come By Here; and Steven Barnes, author of Iron Shadows, Lion's Blood and Zulu Heart to name just two. Lastly, a superior anthology will allow the reader to revisit or discover the work of a favorite author that they will only find exclusively in the anthology.
The following paragraphs highlight my favorite stories from Mojo and I can assure you selecting only a few is a most difficult task. Every story in Mojo is a winner. The stories vary in style, subject matter, length, and run the gamut of human experiences and emotions. I'll squeeze in as many as I can before I'm rushed off the stage.
Mojo: Conjure Stories begins with a story that beautifully set the mood for the rest of the book with Daddy Mention and the Monday Skull by Andy Duncan. Daddy Mention is a convict in a Louisiana prison, and sees singing as his ticket to freedom. The only problem is Daddy Mention can't sing. Not to worry, Daddy Mention knows things and people who can give him what he wants. I love this story. It's a little scary, a lot funny, and totally enjoyable.
There were several stories that dealt more with human emotions than the paranormal such as Steven Barnes' Heartspace, Tananarive Due's Trial Day, Kiini Ibura Salaam's Rosamojo, devorah major's Shining through 24/7, and Jenise Aminoff's Fate. With the exception of Shining through 24/7, the stories are based on family relationships: father-son (Heartspace); incestuous sexual abuse (Rosamojo); mother-child (Fate); and father-daughter (Trial Day). In these stories the unusual was merely a tool, or a weapon, used to enhance the humanity of the tales. I could not find a dud in the bunch.
One of the stories that impressed me the most was The Horsemen and the Morning Star by Barbara Hambley. In this short story, which takes place in the mid 1800s, slaves pit their magic against their white master and his friend. The settings and the characters were so vivid I felt I was watching an HBO mini-series. This was also my first time reading anything by Barbara Hambley. I must say that I'm wholly awed by her style; so much so, I have to invest some time to read a few of her books.
My favorite story in the book is The Tawny Bitch by Nisi Shawl. The Tawny Bitch takes place in England, circa 1830. It is the tale of an imprisoned mulatto woman, Belle, who was caught in the arms of her lesbian lover, and her escape to freedom. The Tawny Bitch is written in the form of a letter from Belle to her lover. The story is magnificent. Its style is reminiscent of letters written in the 18th and 19th centuries when letter writing was a magnificent art form. I was blown away by The Tawny Bitch, and it is truly one of the bright lights of this luminous anthology.
Mojo: Conjure Stories is a remarkable, thoroughly enjoyable anthology that did not cease to entertain and mesmerize me.
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