The Devil in America

May 2, 2018 at 5:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

devilThe Devil in America by Kai Ashante Wilson


I can’t remember what led me to read this novella. I tried reading The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps a few years back, and I couldn’t make it through, but I read something about this story that made me want to read it. I’m glad I did, though when I first finished it, I wasn’t sure.

It took time for the story to settle, and for me to realize just how good it is. I didn’t like the metafictional asides (there are moments in the story where the author’s — not the narrator’s, now, but the author’s — father interjects with comments about the story), but I realized they were clues as to what was to happen in the story. Why Wilson chose this device I don’t know, but when he comments on Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin, it becomes clear that this story is about the violence done against African-Americans, historically and currently.

As such, it’s not a comfortable story. We see white cruelty, though we also see hope through our main character, Easter, who lives in the late 19th century and possesses African magic. She has the ability to control “angels”, who can either do good or ill. An uneasy bargain she makes to save her father leads to future violence … or maybe the violence would have happened regardless.

The magic story works, as does the metafictional device (strange as it is), and the theme resonates. It’s a powerful piece of fiction, though it doesn’t reveal its significance until after some thought. Wilson is a talented writer, enough so that it makes me want to revisit The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps to see if I gave up on it too soon the first time around.

Started: February 27, 2018
Finished: February 27, 2018

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