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No Promised Land
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Books-titles; Books-authors; Novels
Author: Greer, Bonnie
Date: Mar 22, 1998
Start Page: X.04
Section: BOOK WORLD

Since a great deal of contemporary African-American women's fiction takes place exclusively within the confines of the United States and the American experience, it often has a kind of comforting familiarity. However, this narrowness of focus can too often cause weaker books to descend into a kind of parochialism, to become mired in bathos and laden with platitudes. Perhaps the next level is to be found in the wider world, where African Americans can write in a larger context. The poet Lucinda Roy, with her debut novel, Lady Moses, faces the challenge head-on.

The parts are framed by an account of Jacinta's return, with her daughter Lady, to witness the death and burial of the strong and eccentric Louise. This journey fuels Jacinta's memories of her poverty-stricken but happy bohemian childhood, which also included Ruskin Garland, the writer/warlock friend of her father, and Alfred Russel-Smyth, the flamboyantly homosexual friend of her mother. But when Simon Moses died suddenly, Louise Buttercup went mad, and Jacinta was placed in a foster home of Dickensian squalor inhabited by silent, urine-soaked babies and her foster mother's seedy husband. With her childhood idyll over, this daughter of both Africa and Europe was subjected to a sexual assault by the sinister Maurice Beadycap. She also witnessed the death of her best friend, whose blackness she loved to see against the snow.

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