Tag Archives: African American Literature

Wisdom From Kammbia Story Review 10: The Cookout by Jacqueline Turner Banks

A stepfather-stepdaughter relationship can be challenging, especially when the stepdaughter is coming into her own. The Cookout by Jacqueline Turner Banks, a short story published in Shades of Black: Crime & Mystery Stories by African-American Writers, makes a convincing case for that kind of relationship.

The story opens with Stacey Barron’s mother, Frances, leaving on a trip for a few days to take care of relatives.  Stacey does not want her mother to leave her with him.  Frances tries to reassure her daughter everything will be fine and to get along with Phillip. Stacey reluctantly agrees to her mother’s wishes but warns her about episode he had with a gun recently.  Frances overlooks that episode and shares a story she thought would ease her daughter’s mind about her stepfather.

After a brief and tense conversation, Stacey asks Phillip if he would barbeque for their dinner.  Phillip agrees and sees it as an opportunity to connect with his stepdaughter. However, the two argue because she forgot to unthaw the meat and marinate it.  The argument escalates and Phillip ends up dead from a gunshot wound.

Does Stacey kill her stepfather?  Or did the police kill him because he had a gun in his possession?  Banks leaves that part of open-ended and when her mother returns from the trip she believes in her heart who is responsible for her husband’s death.

The Cookout packs quite a punch for a short story under ten pages.  Banks’ direct and sharp prose creates the perfect tension for this whodunit tale.  I had not heard of this author before and reading a short story from this type of collection has brought a new author to my attention.  Fans for crime stories should definitely read the story and others from this groundbreaking anthology.

Wisdom From Kammbia Story Review 8: Recitatif by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is one of those authors I have admired and respected but not loved her fiction. I have read Song of Solomon, Jazz, & Paradise of her work. Song of Solomon is my favorite but my feelings as a reader on a storytelling level have been lukewarm at best. However, this short story (the… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 92: Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

Does a son have to repeat his father’s transgressions and life choices? It seemed like S.A. Cosby was trying to answer that question in his thrilling third novel, Blacktop Wasteland. I have seen this novel posted on my Instagram feed recently and several Goodreads friends posted about the book and I had to read it.… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 83: Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce

If you live to be 110, how would you look back at your life?  With Fondness? With Regret? Missed Opportunities? Or At Peace? The protagonist of Denny S. Bryce’s debut novel, Wild Women and the Blues, gets to answer that question. Honoree Dalcour is in mid-1920s Chicago during the heart of the jazz age where… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Story Review 3: Speech Sounds by Octavia E. Butler

What if you lived in a society where speaking is a threat to the social order? Octavia Butler speculated on the aforementioned question in her Hugo Award-winning short story, Speech Sounds. I came across this story when it was discussed on the Novel Pairing Podcast. The discussion was interesting, and I had to read the… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 78: The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

“The easiest thing in the world is to be yourself. The hardest thing in the world is to be yourself.” Those two sentences were appropriate for one of the two major characters, Opal Jewel, in Dawnie Walton’s excellent debut novel, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev. Walton told the story of the early 1970s… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 77: Joplin’s Ghost by Tananarive Due

As a reader, you notice what kinds of books that you keep gravitating towards. Even though I’m an eclectic reader, I keep gravitating recently towards novels that are about the creative process (books, art, food, or music).  Human creativity has always been fascinating to me, because it showcases the power of imagination in interesting and… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 76: Mama Day by Gloria Naylor

I have always been more of a backlist reader than a new release reader.  There are so many books published, and it is impossible to keep up as a reader.  However, on social media and throughout the publishing world, the new release books especially in fiction are celebrated and promoted.  I totally get it.  There… Continue Reading