Some Glad Morning (Paperback) Review

Some Glad MorningMuch of Irene Steele's first novel takes place in 1984 in Chicago where Mildred Johnson and her Aunt Rose get involved in working for the first black candidate's campaign for mayor of that city, pretty much because of a chance meeting on the El that Mildred has with O'Kanta, a suave civil rights activist who steals her heart away. The author weaves the mayoral campaign plot with the Mildred and O'Kantra romance, Aunt Mildred and Chapman's courtship-- if you can call their relationship that-- and her life in the 1960's in Crayton, Tennessee.

Ms. Steele makes her case for the rights of African Americans but for all of us as well. In a particularly moving passage where Mildred asks Rose about what her father was like, her aunt responds: "'He was a proud man. L. C. [her father] believed that black people were put here to do more than sharecrop. He wanted a better life, not just for him, but for you and your children. He tried to make a difference.'" (Shouldn't that be the dream of everyone, regardless of their skin color?) Although the novel ends in 1985, it is as timely today as then. A white mayoral candidate sends out campaign literature with a picture of Raymond Williams, the black candidate for mayor, with exaggerated features, eating a slice of watermelon. Not that long ago in Atlanta a white politician running for local office did something similar to his black opponent.

Ms. Steele is good at developing her characters. For instance, Aunt Rose. In spite of all the sorrows in her life-- and she has had plenty-- she likes to debate the pros and cons of who is the best blues performer or to break into her "shimmy" as well as keeping up with Mildred's romance and the local gossips in her Chicago neighborhood. She will wear a red dress to church if her candidate for mayor is speaking and she likes good food. (This novel made me hungry for both lemon meringue pie and for hearing the gospel song I grew up with, a line of which Ms. Steele uses for the title of her novel, Albert E. Brumley's "I'll Fly Away.") For all Aunt Rose's fun-loving ways, however, she ultimately is about keeping promises and enduring in the tradition of William Faulkner's character Dilsey in THE SOUND AND THE FURY or one of Toni Morrison's many admirable women characters.

I for one would like to sit down with Rose and eat one of Mildred's blueberry muffins (she is the baker in the family) with a cold glass of milk.

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Product Description:
Mildred Johnson is orphaned when her parents are killed in a protest for voting rights in the South. Her Aunt Rose flees with her to a Chicago relative's. Years later, they join a campaign to elect Chicago's first black mayor, and Mildred falls for the leader of a grass-roots voter registration drive. During the campaign, the truth about her past is revealed.

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