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|Posted on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 06:29 pm: ||
Freelance photographer Valerie Singleton, finds that sometimes even the written word can have her seeing double. Here she reviews Terence E. Jackson's controversial new novel and wonders which is closer to the truth, the camera lens or the pen?
Juan Ramon Jimenez, the Nobel Prize winning poet once said of writing - "It matters nothing that ideas we enunciate seem wrong for the time and place. No matter how isolated and abstract they seem to us, they will come into their meaning, with a huge variety of unsuspecting nuances, when the reader finds himself in a moral situation analogous to the one in which they were written."
Every so often, I find my self completely amazed to find myself on a discover I had not planned on taking. So was the case a few weeks ago, when I found myself wandering through a new photo exhibition at a gallery in downtown LA. The show I thought was good but so are so many others. What made this show now seem memorable to me? While mingling through the usual artsy crowd, I had the pleasure of meet a young author - Terence E. Jackson. We both agreed the show was ok. Later in the evening Mr. Jackson asked if I read books. I told him I did and he quietly recommended I seek out his new novel.
Now having read his book some two weeks ago, I wished I had read it before meeting him. Some writer's come along and upon discovering them you ask yourself "Where have they been my whole life." Mr. Jackson is one of those writers. Just as there are those books you read and forget about and then there are those that seem to haunt your very being. I must admit, when I went to purchase my copy of the novel, I was a bit nervous, being a white woman asking for a book titled "Nigger's Heaven?" I had to wonder if this was the author's way of getting people to talk about his book? Once you read the novel you come to understand that it could not have been titled anything else. I also learned that the term "nigger's heaven" is what was generally referred to as the public colored sections during the days of slavery and segregation. Be warned though, "Nigger's Heaven is a very dark, bizarre book. Don't worry though, part of the books allure lay in its strange tale. Basically, the author takes the idea of the biblical annunciation and turns it on its head. Instead of Mary and the announcement of the coming immaculate birth, the author imagines a young African American man who receives news that he has been chosen to help cleanse the world of evil.
One of the amazing things about the book is the author's ability to immediately throw us into the mind of his main character. Dealing with a kaleidoscope of themes, large as the Diaspora herself: Denial, self-hatred, revenge, one might think the author would lose focus. On the contrary, this sort of juggling act seems to add an intensity that goes straight to one's psyche. Having infused the main character of the novel with just the right amount of pathos, the reader is torn between wanting to dislike him and feeling a need to defend his actions. Mr. Jackson writes with such lyricism that the beauty of his prose is never lost on the heart as well as the eyes.
Music also plays a very large part in this story and one can almost hear the melody flowing through the pages. Written in the first person, the author uses wonderful shifting perceptions to keep us wondering if what we are reading is really happening or just a figment of the main character's imagination. While reading the book I couldn't help but think of the DC sniper as well as what role society plays in the creation of someone like that?
Mr. Jackson is an amazing writer who has given us an incredible thought provoking novel. Having spent the last twenty years of his life all over the world. Mr. Jackson delivers a courageous daring work. Never one to shy away from controversial issues, his works have been compared to James Baldwin's, due to his sensitivity and invaluable insight into the human heart. One of the most original African-American voices. Artist First Radio Network calls Mr. Jackson, "A complex and passionate artist, who's works immediately discuss the dark and the light of the soul." Southern Voice magazine says of his performances, "What I love most about Terence E. Jackson's work is his desire to approach the truth. To play around her, to almost catch her, to envision her, so to speak."
"Nigger's Heaven is a novel for people who are, like myself much more concerned with being allowed to participate in the experience as opposed to just watching from the side line. So remember, just as in the beginning of "Night of The Living Dead," you have been warned!
Terence E. Jackson's "Nigger's Heaven was published in June by iUniverse and can be purchased at any book seller near you or online.
Book Title: Nigger's Heaven
Genre: Literary - Fiction