“If you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing.” “Don't start none, won't be none.” “If you don't stand for something you'll fall for anything.” Whether it was in the church on a hard-shined wooden pew, or around the kitchen table after, listening to the wisdom of mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends, and leaders, the messages of the proverbs resonate in the souls of most African-Americans—a sweet refrain heard through striving, reaching, loving, and living. In this powerful collection of stories based on African, African-American, and Biblical proverbs, some of today's most exciting new African-American writers tackle the unifying themes, delicious wit and undeniable wisdom of the proverbs, making them sing for a whole new generation.
In the moving “Love Can Move Mountains,” author Elizabeth Atkins Bowman explores the meaning of the African-American saying, “Mountain, get out of my way!” in a story about the miraculous, mysterious power of a mother's stand-firm love. In Arethia Hornsby's “My Momma Said…,” two friends go out on the town and get schooled in a life lesson that proves the truth behind the ages-old African-American proverb, “Never judge a book by its cover.” Town gossip gets the best of a loyal wife and gives credence to C.F. Pope's saying, “Never declare war unless you mean to do battle,” in Gwynne Forster's wry tale of comeuppance, “First Thing Monday Morning.” And in the flirty short story, “Something Special,” Venise Berry shows what the Cape Verde Islands maxim, “Every week has its Friday” really means as one woman's weekly ritual promises seven days' worth of sensual satisfaction.
In addition to such established writers as Pearl Cleage, Omar Tyree, Margaret Johnson-Hodge, Timmothy McCann, Brandon Massey, Kambon Obayani, Earl Sewell, Maxine Thompson, and others, here, too, are rising stars in the African-American literary world, including fourteen-year-old Kharel Price and fifteen-year-old Tierra French, proving that the wisdom of the past lives on in the next generation.
From the struggle to break the chains of the past, (Pat G'Orge-Walker's “The Consequence”) to the fight to keep hope alive in the face of injustice, (Robert Fleming's “A Crisis of Faith”), from the joys of loving an older woman (Parry “Ebony Satin” Brown's “Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do”), to an African man's discovery of his own America (Amanda Ngozi Adichie's “Women Here Drive Buses”), this triumphant, stirring anthology is a glorious reminder of the power of proverbs to heal, to provoke, to unify, and to inspire.
Tracy Price-Thompson is a Brooklyn native, Desert Storm veteran, and the author of three novels, Black Coffee, Chocolate Sangria and A Taste of Hunnie. She has also contributed to several anthologies, including Bensonhurst: Black and Blue (S&S, 1999).
TaRessa Stovall is a Seattle native, former public relations director for Spelman College in Atlanta, and the co-author of A Love Supreme: Real-Life Stories of Black Love (Warner, 2000). TaRessa has contributed to several anthologies, written articles for USA Weekend, BET.com, Emerge and HealthQuest magazines and is a contributing author for the New York Public Library African-American Desk Reference and Staying Strong: Reclaiming the Wisdom of African-American Healing. TaRessa has been featured on Oprah! and in the Emmy Award-winning documentary Black Women On: The Light, Dark Thang.
Every Proverb Has Its Story
“A woman without her sisters is like a bird without wings.” —African-American proverb
“In the time before the men came, we could do everything. We were fearless, brave, trustworthy, clean, mentally awake and morally straight…We wrote great books and thought new thoughts and argued about ideas and aesthetics until the sun set and the moon rose and bathed us all in silver…”—from “In the Time Before the Men Came: The Past as Prologue” by Pearl Cleage
“Nothing beats a failure but a try.”—African-American proverb
“She was not his kind of woman. Everyone said so. But what did they know? The thing was, he had always liked a woman with a flaw. It had gotten him through a lot of closed doors and into a lot of tightly made beds...”—from “If He Didn't Go” by Sharon Ewell Foster
“To know wisdom and instruction: to perceive the words of understanding.” —Proverbs 1:2
“Antonio looked down and studied the massive business of tiny ants as they combined forces to build the miniature mountain of light brown sand between the cracks of the sidewalk. He nodded and said, 'It's gonna rain today.' His boyhood friends, Chuck and William, looked at him…and laughed. But Antonio wasn't bothered by it. He knew what he knew…” –from “That Nigga's Crazy!” by Omar Tyree
“Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.”—Proverbs 14:1
“Ruth turned to face both of her daughters. She wanted to say words she'd said to her sales staff and to clients on numerous occasions but for the first time they sounded odd, even to her. 'Life is simple. We make it difficult…'”—from “Death of a Salesperson” by Timmothy B. McCann