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The Portable Promised Land - BookTV Recommendation *PIC*

At The Bookstore

Title: The Portable Promised Land

Author: Toure

Publisher: Little Brown & Company; 2002

ISBN: 0316666432


Soul City, a place where racial divisions are juxtaposed and black love flows freely, is the main setting for The Portable Promised Land, a debut collection of short stories by Touré. Buoyant and edged with magical realism, stories such as "The Steviewondermobile"; "A Hot Time at the Church of Kentucky Fried Souls and the Spectacular Final Sermon of the Right Revren Daddy Love"; and "The Sad, Sweet Story of Sugar Lips Shinehot, the Man with the Portable Promised Land" are moving testaments to the urban black experience, comingling or interchanging music, religion, and human failings with dramatic and comic effect. We are told: "No matter how rotund she was Daddy Love could still hug her in surround-sound stereo because Daddy Love was super-sized as though God had intended him to be literally larger than life." And, when Sugar Lips Shinehot dare ask the price of boundless freedom (by eliminating all white men) offered to him by Reverend Scratch (a.k.a. the Devil) and is chided for doing so, Sugar Lips simply replies, "If you from Harlem you do." These main stories are fresh and earnest, and well worth reading.

The rest of the collection, however, is a mixed bag. A triptych of the Black Widow, a female hip-hop militant-gangsta out to turn the world of the white folks (or MCs--Melatonin Challenged) upside down, is sensationalist but falls flat, and several of the pieces rely on catalogs of pop culture references, words and phrases in the black lexicon, or amateurish listing. While the delivery may be messy, the ideas are clear and important--from what America would be like in a black-dominated society to interracial relationships to the importance and beauty of black language. As Touré notes: "When you a Negro white folk is like doors. You got to go though them to get most anywhere." --Michael Ferch

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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