For the Sake of Soul
by Frederick K. Foote, Jr.
Publication Date: Oct 23, 2015
List Price: $15.00 (store prices may vary)
Page Count: 125
Imprint: Blue Nile Press
Publisher: Blue Nile Press
Parent Company: Blue Nile Press
Frederick Foote’s stories chart the geography of the African-American experience of his generation, tracing the uprootedness of the Black migration and the groundedness of characters who stake their claims. His protagonists are buffeted by the currents of Jim Crow, war, and discrimination, but these men and women retain their personhood and amazingly, thankfully, their sense of humor.
The story “Guest in Black and White” frames the book and calls upon the ancestors to be with us as we read. Like a chant to the Yoruba deity, Elegua, the story opens the door to what is to come, reminding us of what has been at stake for Black men, and allowing the wisdom of the grandfathers to guide us.
William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County has nothing on Fred Foote’s Sumter, South Carolina. This is the deep background setting for the Andrew stories in this collection. It is a place where mules and men kick back when beaten. Sumter is the place of secrets and the wellspring of both pain and family connectedness. Travel there to see the same story through multiple perspectives, one of Frederick’s authorial obsessions, to discover that the truth is elusive and situated in our faulty and self-protective memories.
Next, we move forward to a cluster of enlistment stories, as young men, full of the wildness of their age, are lured by the promise of the military to travel, to escape, and to participate in the great American tableau of war at home and abroad. When our characters Teofilo and his buddies are off duty in North Philly, they jostle for a place to experience manhood and friendship. And when they must fight, they do so in all the theatres of combat of Frederick s times: Korea, Vietnam, and the homefront. These are stories of bloodletting, standoffs, and uneasy homecomings. The world of work for the young, gifted, and Black generation holds out terrible irony. Stories like The Appointment written with the gimlet eye of someone who’s been there take us into the landscape of affirmative action, where opportunities come laced with land mines. These are stories of powerful men and women, sexual appetites, the edge of violence, and the cool control of brinkmanship. We can trace the roots of these human drives back into the mythic pasts of the characters and pull the thread through to our contemporary moment.
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