But the only important thing in a book is the meaning it has for you; it may have other and much more profound meanings for the critic, but at second-hand they can be of small service to you.”
— W. Somerset Maugham
I finished Coffee Will Make You Black by April Sinclair.
It is fabulous.
As usual my friend,
who recommended this book and many others,
she said I would like it,
and I did.
Coffee is a coming of age story.
I have, over the years read many of these types of books.
It is a genre I enjoy.
For a while when I was in High School,
when dinosaurs walked the earth,
were talking eighties,
I read many books by and about inner city black youth.
One sticks in my mind,
Manchild In the Promised Land by Claude Brown.
This book left quite an impression.
It was about growing up in Harlem in the forties and fifties.
This was the first generation born in the northern ghettos,
their parents were part of the massive migration from the south.
Manchild and later the works of James Baldwin,
one of my favourite writers,
gave me a glimpse of what being black, meant.
Victims of ingrained, institutionalised racism.
Manchild was also about a boy of great intelligence and sensitivity,
who makes it out of the ghetto.
A winner, a survivor.
It was a bleak story that did however,
Coffee Will Make You Black is not like that,
Jean (Stevie) is a smart kid,
and she comes from a loving family.
You never doubt that Stevie will make it.
Her family has lived through the wars.
Her grandmother, in the south,
her parents on the south side of Chicago.
We are now in the 60’s,
the freedom rides, the march on Washington, the war on poverty,
have all come and gone.
Things are easier for Stevie,
She has a real chance,
if she can resist the peer pressure about sex and drugs.
Stevie is also struggling with her emergent sexuality,
is she “funny” ( Lesbian)
and if she is,
will she loose her friends and family.
Stevie’s family have their prolems, her father drinks a little and her mother rides her.
But, they love her and each other.
I just loved it,
it was inspiring in a quiet way.
It was also funny.
No, hand wrigging teenage angst.
has what it takes to surpass racism and homophobia.
The back cover says Sinclair is working on a sequel,
I’d love to see what happens to Stevie and Nurse Horn.
A good read.
Not as dramatic as Manchild but, I suspect,
it will be just as memorable.