Arts & Leisure

Book review: Harlem Shuffle — by Colson Whitehead

(Doubleday Books)

This is the Harlem of the 1960s, crucible of the Civil Rights Movement, where cultural, religious and political leaders could be found on street corners and in business establishments, teeming with political, social, and economic empowerment activities. Whitehead’s man Carney — Ray Carney, a mostly-upright furniture salesman — is just living his life. He’s a guy you wouldn’t mind spending the afternoon with, he’s relatable, he’s endearing, he’s just a little bit crooked. His in-laws aren’t quite sure he’s good enough for their daughter but Carney knows his wife Elizabeth, and their family, is his love, his motivation. He is decidedly not as bad as his cousin Freddie — if there’s any trouble, Freddie is bound to be tangled up in it — but he does find himself unwittingly involved in one of Freddie’s heists, a big plan to rob the Hotel Theresa, the grand hotel of Harlem, with its stately interior and period architecture, and brand furniture — Carney knows his stuff — beautifully described in detail. Will Carney manage to extricate himself and still take home a piece of the pie? In this love letter to Harlem, the social and cultural setting play a part as central as the hugely-entertaining plot and large-hearted characters. A real grand novel.

— Reviewed by Jenny Lyons of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.

8 New & Forthcoming Black Historical Fiction

Palmares, by Gayl Jones

The Sweetness of Water, by Nathan Harris

The Personal Librarian, by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

Moon and the Mars, by Kia Corthron

Island Queen, by Vanessa Riley

What Passes as Love, by Trisha R. Thomas

Ramadan Ramsey, by Louis Edwards

These Bones, by Kayla Chenault

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