Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Devil In America, by Kai Ashante Wilson

The Devil In America is the last of the Nebula nominated novelettes for this blog, this year.  And another one to make the Sad Puppies cringe, since it centers on racial injustice.  And of course the talk radio induced blindness would miss an important point--this is a story told from a different point of view within a different point of view, and is well worth a critique.

Our protagonist is Easter, a southern black girl growing up in a relatively well off black family.  The story is rich with family life, and centers on a very strong maternal character.  Ma'am has married a man much younger than herself, which makes her something of the talk of the town, though Easter certainly thinks she is deserving.  But Ma'am has had a very hard life, losing two of her three children--Easter is all she has left. 

And the reason behind this loss is power.  The Old African magic, going down through her bloodline but now not well controlled.  As Ma'am puts it, the family is rich but can't count--so they are vulnerable to getting swindled if they use their magical wealth.

But they still do, a little--to keep their famous tobacco healthy--and Easter definitely has the power, seeing the angels all around her.  And they will help her out, too, but she has to be careful.  Except that one time, already past when we enter the tale.

The story is told with interludes that appear to come from the writer's father, referring to the ongoing persecution of black people in America.  He is reading Wilson's tale of Easter and Rosedale, the black community they live in which was attacked and burned by whites in 1877.  One gets the impression that Wilson is tracing this persecution back to the supernatural events of this story.  Not too purely, of course, because the persecution started well before then, but maybe added to it?  Hard to say.

In any case it's quite well written and worth the time to read.  3 stars from me.

Now, which was my favorite novelette from this crop?  I would say it is between Tom Crosshill's The Magician and Laplace's Demon and this one.   It's a narrow thing, but I'd give the award to Crosshill.  We'll see how it comes out.


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