Hello, Good People!
After three years and countless adventures, I’m finally done with graduate school. I was finding it difficult to maintain my stunning twitter persona and write a capstone paper at the same time. But now it’s over, and after ample downtime, I’ve decided to return to
my baby the blog.
And what better way to celebrate my return than to tell you guys what you should be reading? Right? Right. But first, a little backstory.
I was putzing around on twitter one day, and ended up following Nicole Sconiers. She’s awesome, by the way. So awesome, in fact, that she sent me a copy of her recently published short story collection, Escape From Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair, and Rage. Escape from Beckyville is an examination of black womanhood, identity, race, and culture through a decidedly speculative fiction lens. Angeles. Sconiers’ own journey is interesting and inspring, and with Beckyville, she’s cemented a space for herself as a fresh, and much needed voice, telling the stories of the various Jones women with witty and sharp prose.
Publisher: Spring Lane
Published: June, 2011
Somewhere in the basements of Los Angeles, very near Heliotrope Blvd., a group of ragtag female freedom fighters gear up for a last ditch defense effort, an effort to protect something that they never would have thought in need of guardng: their hair. From whom? The Janes, wraithlike white women that assault black women in search of the magic that can only be found in their hair. The Janes are only one of several sci-fi esque tools that Sconiers uses to examine themes of black womanhood, black female identity, race, and relationships in her short story collection Escape From Beckyville. Others include android replacement boyfriends for the disgruntled sisters, tiny glowing maids that leap from the pages of NY Times bestsellers in search of someone who can tell their true, real stories, and prosthetic faces for sisters who find that the constant scrutiny of mainstream society has a…decidedly negative effect on their skin.
Each of the short stories in Beckyville examines a key issue in the black female experience. Sconiers tackles complex issues like dating/companionship struggles, white hair envy, or difficulties in reconciling sexuality and faith with wit and very nice prose. It would have been easy to get pedantic in describing some of the more science-fiction-y elements (like caucasian love androids!), but Sconiers definitely avoids that trap. The pacing in one or two of the stories lags a bit, but never enough to make you stop reading, which is indicative of great characterization and awesome skill at making the reader care. Sconiers also creates little recurring themes to establish familiarity with the reader, like all of the protagonists having the same last name (Jones), the ever-present beauty shop (hair, and the study of it is something Sconiers does extremely well.), and Heliotrope Blvd, the center of the storm.
These are heavy stories, definitely, and they examine issues with content that may not be suitable for younger readers in places (One story in particular is vey, very erotic, and shows Sconiers skill at subtly examining touchy issues). This isn’t a collection that you breeze through, very similar to J. California Cooper; the stories aren’t that long, but they’re chock full of stuff that makes you think. People that like to maximize their reading time might want to try another book. That’s definitely not a bad thing, though, because that just gives you the ability to make a cup of coffee (or tea…or bourbon. Whatever your speed is) and chill out with a pastry and just read until you’re satisfied.
Escape From Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage is available in quite a few places, so scoop up a copy and pour yourself a
shot of bourbon cup of coffee and dive in! I’m actually thinking about doing a giveaway and having the prize be a signed copy of this book, so stay tuned.