Review: Glorious by Bernice L. McFadden

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Title: Glorious
Author: Bernice L. McFadden
First Published: May 1, 2010
Publisher: Akashic Books
Source: Received for free from the author for review
239 pages




In a nutshell
Glorious is set against the backdrops of the Jim Crow South, the Harlem Renaissance, and the civil rights era. Blending the truth of American history with the fruits of Bernice L. McFadden’s rich imagination, this is the story of Easter Venetta Bartlett, a fictional Harlem Renaissance writer whose tumultuous path to success, ruin, and revival offers a candid portrait of the American experience in all its beauty and cruelty.

This was an un-put-downable book for me! I usually take breaks in between reading, but this one book had my attention all throughout that I just couldn't step out even for a brief moment. I was initially hesitant to read this. After having enjoyed Sugar quite a lot, I was afraid if Glorious would meet the high quality benchmark I have come to expect from Bernice McFadden. I needn't have worried. Glorious delivered strongly, with a strong punch in the air, if possible!

I think...
Glorious is Easter Bartlett's story, as she battles the racist oppression against African Americans, ever since her sister was raped. Since then, Easter does not stop moving. She comes across a large number of people during her travels as she tries to come into her own self. Glorious is a blend of fact and fiction. It follows the life of Easter as several events of historic importance happen in the backdrop and many eminent people - Marcus Garvey, Langston Hughes, Horace Liveright, Nancy Cunard - cross her paths.

There are several nitty gritty moments in this book. Through Easter's eyes, we witness a lynching by a white mob against a helpless, defenseless pregnant maid, whose only crime was that she was black and that a black man killed a white man a few days ago. That was one of the most powerful scenes I've read in a book, and it felt so real, it made me cry at the terrifying act committed. Why do humans become beasts in the name of color, religion, race, gender or politics? When Easter gets pregnant and opts for abortion, the scene recounted is so vivid that I could see it in my mind's eye.

During Easter's travels, she comes across several memorable people - Rain, who was probably her closest friend, Colin, the man she loved and who loved her, Meredith Tomas, through whom she achieved fame. In addition, a whole new assortment of characters raise their heads. I loved how they had their own small back-stories. I strongly appreciated that they weren't portrayed as faceless extras, but rather as solid people, who wittingly or unwittingly influenced the paths of Easter or the other major characters.

I was shocked to read about Ota Benga. That almost made me scream and my skin itch. It was horrifying to read that a human being (a Congolese pygmy) was once featured in the NY Bronx Zoo, to promote "the concepts of human evolution and scientific racism", as Wiki says. I found the emotions expressed by most characters very strong and vivid. That also includes the biased and racist opinions held by the government and some characters.

Every day he gathered information on Marcus Garvey and the activities of the UNIA. The U.S. government had labeled Garvey as an anarchist. He was to Negroes what Emma Goldman was to women. Dangerous Emma had called for access to birth control - how dare she suggest a woman be in control of her own reproductive system! And so, too, how dare Marcus Garvey suggest that Negroes develop and maintain their own economic system? How dare he put into their minds that they could return to Africa, form their own government in Liberia, and unite the continent as one massive, indestructible force?


Bernice has a writing style that uses English phrases very cleverly. I fell in love with that style in Sugar, and was thrilled to see the same signature style of writing in this book. Bernice writes in a very direct style without mincing words. There's only so much you can write in 240-odd pages, but Bernice doesn't waste time with what's not important. At the same time, it is not so fast that it leaves you panting. I just wished it was longer. There is so much mentioned in this book that I feel it could have been a little longer. Moreover, there were some characters I was very interested in. Towards the end of the book, I was left wondering about their whereabouts. Much as that was not important to the story, I couldn't help but think about how their fates turned out.

Overall, I strongly recommend this book. There is so much I learned from this book. This was my first experience with the Harlem Renaissance era. Although it isn't an encyclopedia of sorts on this era, there is enough happening for the reader to gauge the mood and beliefs of the time.

Title Demystified
Glorious talks of the triumph of one woman, as she starts in the Jim Crow South, moves on to the Harlem Renaissance era and ends her journey in the Civil Rights era. It explores how she is suspected of a crime she isn't guilty of, and how eventually in the final pages of the book, she triumphs over the last of the injustices in her life, gloriously!.

Cover Art Demystified
This very placid cover feels serene to stare at. I hadn't been able to put two and two together here, but I like how Easter's writing (typewriter) is linked with the glorious pink fur collar (fame). Linked but not yet touching. Near, yet so far away!

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What did you think?
Have you read this book? I'd like to know what you thought about it. Please leave your review link in the comments, or a brief opinion, if you hadn't reviewed it.

5 comments:

bermudaonion said...

This sounds like a very powerful and emotional book. If a book makes you cry, you know it's well written!

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Awesome review! I wish my little heart could take it.

Katy said...

The lynching scene felt like someone dropped a load of bricks on me. It was overwhelming. I enjoyed the book too, but wished I had gotten to know Easter better. Here's my review.

Emidy said...

I love books like this! I've got to read Glorious. Thanks for an excellent review!

Aths said...

Kathy, 'If a book makes you cry, you know it's well written!'. So well-said!

Juju, I'm sure you will love this!

Katy, I felt that at one point too, that Easter was more fleshed-out!

Emidy, you are welcome!