Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Review: Erzulie’s Skirt by Ana-Maurine Lara

Ana-Maurine Lara
Erzulie’s Skirt

Published by Redbone Press

Reviewed by Kay Sexton

Erzulie’s Skirt is part-novel, part-fable, and part exploration of the black diaspora. In all that, the bisexual nature of two of the three protagonists; Miriam, Micaela and Yealidad, is a minor note, made more so by the fact that one reason for the bisexuality is that during voodoo rites Miriam is ‘ridden’ by Changó, the male deity of thunder, giving an added level of resonance to this complex story.

Lara reveals a rarely told story; that of the many Caribbean-born women who are forced, or cajoled, into travelling to other lands to work. It’s a sweeping tale of love and loss, discrimination and affection, material poverty and cultural richness. In places the material is uneven; one whole section of the book deals with Micaela’s aunt arriving from America and insisting the girl attends school, but this is not developed with any sense of the value (or otherwise) of education, and Yealidad is little more than a footnote, designed to allow the other characters to move into the period after death. There are some inconsistencies too: a houngan is described in the glossary as a voodoo priestess but referred to as ‘he’ in the narrative, and Miriam is greeted by Jérémie with ‘You should be more discreet Miriam,’ although he asks a few lines later ‘What is your name, beautiful girl?’ Despite these minor glitches, the book is absorbing, tender and powerful, and a delight to read.

As well as writing for the UK's premier sustainability journal, Green Futures, Pushcart-nominated Kay Sexton has recently completed ‘Green Thought in an Urban Shade’, a words and pictures exhibition with painter Fion Gunn that was shown in London, Dublin and Beijing. She has had more than ninety short stories published. Kay blogs about writing fiction at http://writingneuroses.blogspot.com/ and has a regular column at http://www.moondance.org/

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