Book Review: The Future Has a Past

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by J. California Cooper

Publication Date: Oct 16, 2001
List Price: $15.00
Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Classification: Fiction
ISBN13: 9780385496810
Imprint: Anchor
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann

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Book Reviewed by Thumper

The Future Has A Past is the latest short story collection by author J. California Cooper. In case you don’t know, I adore J. California Cooper! I’ve been a huge fan of hers for many years now. Frankly, I don’t believe she can do any wrong. For years, since I read her short story collection, Some Love, Some Pain, sometime, I have been an avid admirer, follower, reader of J. California Cooper. So much so that over the years I have kept at least one J. California Cooper book that I haven’t read. I call myself saving it for that proverbial rainy day, be it actually raining outside and I’m stuck in the house with nothing to read. Or, if I have a streak of reading a bunch of bad books and I’m starving for a good book, then I have that one J. California Cooper book to read. In short stories dealing with four women finding love, acceptance and respect, Cooper successfully manages to tell story while showing the need for having self-respect and self-esteem. Not an easy feat to accomplish, but one that Cooper has made a career.

The Future Has A Past consists of four stories. The first story, A Shooting Star is narrated by a woman that through gossip relays the story of Lorene. Lorene is a very pretty young woman who loves sex and throw caution, reputation and good sense to the wind. The second story, A Filet of Soul is of Luella, a young woman who was told by her mother that she was ugly and that nobody would love her. Luella’s mother dies and soon after Luella is betrayed by the man she loves. The third story, The Eagle Flies, is the story of Vinnie, a single mother that works three jobs in order to support her two grown children. Vinnie passes up her chance for love once because of her children. Will she let the opportunity slip away again before it’s too late? The fourth and final story, The Lost and the Found, is the story of Irene, a young mother of two young boys that have waited for the love of her life, Cool, to finally settle down and marry her. Irene is faced with the question of letting go of a dream and reaching for the man that truly loves her. Four different scenarios of love, four stories that I loved and hated to see end.

J. California Cooper is a maestro. In my opinion she does not get the respect, publicity, and admiration that she deserves. The stories are powerful, lyrical, humorous in spots, and uplifting. I found myself cheering for the women characters. What I found interesting and highly entertaining is the narrative style that Cooper used throughout the book. The four stories are told through gossip. Sitting on the front porch, meeting a friend in the aisle of the supermarket, is the places that these stories are told. Cooper transforms, or should I say, exposes a correlation between what we would call gossip and the art of storytelling. For the type of gossip that Cooper enacts is not the negative, hurtful, vindictive gossip. It is storytelling at it’s finest.

I love the book! The Future Has A Past is a book that I would highly recommend! It is also a book with a message that I imagine was written with young African-American women in mind. I KNOW that it is a book that is for anyone that loves good literature with excellent character in remarkable, everyday stories. It’s wonderful! Now, I still have one J. California Cooper book that I have read. I still got my rainy day covered.

Read Anchor’s description of The Future Has a Past.
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