Thursday, March 29, 2012

Musings On: A Taste of Honey (Stories) by Jabari Asim

A Taste of Honey was an impulse buy for me. I saw the cover, the title, and that it was a compilation of short stories and thought, why not? I was expecting the stories to be stand alone, and I guess they could be if one read them at random, but to read them in sequence opens the reading experience and makes the book that much more poignant.

Set during the summer of 1967 in St. Louis, Missouri, A Taste of Honey begins like a nostalgic tale that your father, uncle or grandfather would recount to you of their childhood. It's personal, intimate, reminiscent. Set around the fictional neighborhood of Gateway City, it includes a cast of characters and their stories. Nine-year-old Crispus Jones is at the heart of it all. Struggling with being the youngest of three boys, Crispus can't help but feel lacking, as both his brothers seem to have gotten all the good looks, charm and bravery. Teased relentlessly by his handsome brother, Schom, a sensitive Crispus stumbles through his awkward pre-teen years.

There is Rose. Her beautiful singing voice can hush the birds twittering and entrance a whole audience, but behind closed doors she is the victim of abuse at the hands of her husband. Downtrodden and desperate, Rose is at her wits end when a blessing comes her way.

Then there is Roderick aka The Genius. Brilliant and young, Roderick is his reclusive mothers pride and joy. But being too smart in Gateway City makes him an outcast and he's picked on by a gang of neighborhood kids called the Decatur Clan. An unlikely ally helps the head-in-a-book Roderick realize that there's more to life than just books. Sometimes friendship can make all the difference.

These are just a few of the stories A Taste of Honey offers. There are more characters to get to know, all with their own stories, each one as touching as the one before it. They thread together to create a wistful peek into a time period long gone. Coming in at 205 pages, A Taste of Honey reads like the title implies; short and sweet. The pages are filled with easy prose and vivid characters who are all, as Crispus Jones' mother would say, "going through changes." If you happen upon this book, don't hesitate to pick it up. You won't regret it.

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