Wednesday, May 19, 2010

HIS OWN WHERE, by June Jordan

The Feminist Press recently sent me a review copy of HIS OWN WHERE by June Jordan. The book was first published in 1971 and was a finalist for the National Book Award. It was the first book written "entirely in Black English." The Feminist Press is reissuing the novel-in-poetry on May 25th and if you don't pick up a copy, you'll be missing out on one of the best YA novels written by one of the master wordsmiths of our time.

HIS OWN WHERE is about Buddy, a young black man in America. It's a tender love story told in language that is stripped down to simple, bold, and beautiful truth:
His mother hungering for order among things themselves, for space she could admire, simply hungering and gone. Where did she go, and Buddy wondering about this last disorder she did not repair. This disordering of life of marriage of her motherhood. Strange lovely woman warm and hungering and gone.
It is a rare and loving depiction of black masculinity - Buddy is sensitive, protective (of love, of vulnerability), nurturing, creative, communicative. He has a loving relationship with is father. Together, they tear down the insides of the home they live in and build it back up so they can they can feel free:
Buddy father clean the house down to the linoleum. Remove the moldings. Take away the window drapes and teach him, Buddy, how to calculate essentials how to calculate one table and two chairs, four plates, two mugs. Together they build shelves and stain them. Throw out the cabinets and bureaus opening and closing like a bank. His father teach him hammering and saws and measuring and workshop science. House be like a workshop where men live creating how they live.[...] On duty in the night his father dream and draw the next plan for the next day, working the house into a dream they can manage with their hands.
Jordan paints an unflinching portrait of life in small, cramped homes, parents working day and night for bare essentials, the restriction of movement in the urban landscape, and the desperate need for mobility, growth, expansion. And then, of course, there is teen love and sexual awakening in the midst of it all...
Buddy could never get over this difference between women and their daughters. Like this nurse, this obnoxious, nosy woman who spoke to him like that when they were strangers, she was the mother of his Angela. She was the mother of the girl Buddy felt guilty to be so aware of there right where his father lay, his face asleep, his life dying.
I read this book in one big gulp because I couldn't put it down. Not because of the plot (it's not one of those, "OMG, what happens next?!?!" books), but because of the language. Because of the Truth in its words. Because Jordan left her heart in those pages. And it saddens me that books like these often aren't seen as "lead" titles, or "big sellers" - if they manage to even become published at all.

I wonder what would happen if books like HIS OWN WHERE were published with the enthusiasm of something like the Twilight series. If as much money were thrown behind them and as much buzz were generated. Would we start to see copycats of revolutionary books by black authors? Would there be series after series of books about sensitive, loving, young black men who are gardeners and carpenters, builders and protectors, creators and lovers? Could you imagine . . . ? Books upon books of black and brown people reshaping their landscapes, tearing down and rebuilding the walls holding them in . . . Seriously, could you imagine . . . ?

I would like to get this book as much exposure as possible. If you are a blogger and/or reviewer with a large readership, please email me. I will send you my copy as long as you agree to review/blog about the book and create as much buzz about it as you can in a timely manner (remember, pub date is May, within the next month or two).

Everyone else: BUY THIS BOOK.


MissA said...

I would love to review this book but I hate to take your own copy, so I can wait till it's released and review it then :)

I would love that, if books that showed all sides of Black men and how they (we) are all unique, garned more buzz. I really wish that the bigger publishing houses would work harder to get these titles into schools and the hands of teen readers.

The (lack of) punctuation may be a bit disconcerting at first, but it will be a new and interesting way to read a book for me.

Anonymous said...

Has Feminist Press always published this book or are they putting it back into print? WIsh I had time to read it now...

Neesha Meminger said...

@campbele - Edi, they are reprinting it. It was originally published by T.Y. Crowell Co. in 1971. I think you'd love it. The love story is so moving.

Post a Comment