A Voice Long Gone-Critique

Spears, Doris
A Novel Allegory
Xlibris (225 pp.)
$29.99 Hardcover
$19.99 Paperback
$9.99 e-book
August 30, 2011
ISBN: 978-1465348340
                                                       Kirkus Review

          Spears’ novel speaks to the most distressing concerns of contemporary African-American life.
          The book is an exploration of the personal, economic and familial trials of Tequila Victorious, a multiple
rape survivor from an acrimonious home; her children, Alizay and R&B; and their father, Lightnin. When the
novel opens, Tequila is an aspiring singer leveraging sexual favors for a break, and the stars in her eyes match
Lightnin’s, a lothario with vague ambitions. After a shooting and an arson attack force them from their home in
Promise, a predominately prosperous neighborhood in a Chicago-analogue town in the Midwest, Tequila relocates
her family to Bling City, something like New York, where most of the story takes place. In Bling City, Tequila’s
arc diverges from Lightnin’s; she works several jobs, supports the endeavors of her children and sings on the side,
while her partner—later husband—seems hardwired for drinking, cheating and, occasionally, domestic abuse.
Discord increases with Lightnin’s jealousy over their son R&B’s budding entertainment career, and industrious,
scholastic Alizay faces challenges of her own. Allegory and unfiltered realism blur in Spears’ story, which
attempts to illuminate the contemporary African-American social and political condition while providing
psychological diagnoses of individuals and families struggling with subsistence-level earnings. The book is
written in an Ebonicslike slang and narrated by an aunt of Tequila’s who is conspicuously absent from the plot. The dialect breathes life into the
characters but also blocks the narrative; the action of the book is turbulent and it’s difficult to interpret the minutiae of a character’s psychology as
written, especially when characterization is entwined with a broader social argument. Spears’ book is graphic, unsparing and unapologetic, and
strongest when it drops the allegory and gets personal, particularly in the case of Tequila when, in rare moments when the prose is analytically
unencumbered, her earnest reflection is moving and poetic. But even Tequila, though a sympathetic character, holds views that are at best
culturally insensitive, and at worst ethnocentric and damaging.
          A niche book for readers with thick skin.
Kirkus Indie, Kirkus Media LLC, 6411 Burleson Rd., Austin, TX 78744

Leave a comment