"My man God doesn't have holy rent and holy bills to pay."
Rion Amilcar Scott's Insurrections is a short story collection that embodies the every man and woman getting by in the fictional town of Cross River, Maryland. Young and old, the working and the unemployed, those beset by demons and the ones who try to help them, even if they themselves don't have the wherewithal to do so. The stories in Insurrections are about people, relationships, and the cracks and fissures that make each one unique, in strength and weakness alike.
The impact of family tragedy is at the forefront of A Friendly Game, in which a once-proud mother and library assistant who read to the local children swirls into drug addiction following the death of her son. "Joan's husband came one day with tiny white rocks, a butane lighter, and a glass pipe. What a brief intense dizzying derangement. Slipping from yourself for a few moments. That's how she described it and little by little, each time, less and less of her returned."
Years later, Joan is a street lady, tortured by the very boys she read to, who now see her as nothing more than a means to debase and destabilize each other in their own struggles over women and stature.
The way years of abuse can alter a mindset is highlighted in The Slapsmith. Nicolette is so used to being mistreated she can't even recognize real help when she finds it. Or did she find it? "Men having fun could sure sound menacing sometimes."
As a whole, Scott's stories are well-crafted and aspects of them linger long after reading. Individually, they are sometimes odd, often sorrowful, every once in a while providing a glimmer of hope. To his credit, Scott engages the reader, this one at least, in circumstances that range from recognizable to foreign to almost inconceivable. These are stories of people constantly at odds, fighting to find their way. It's not a new premise, but Scott's delivery is well worth the trip.
STREET SENSE: A satisfying and moving collection of stories about those up against it. Written with grace and complexity with rich characters and brutality drawn bare, this collection is recommended for those who don't thrive on Hollywood endings.
COVER NERD SAYS: As a fan of bird imagery, this cover spoke to me immediately. I'm not even sure if I can relate the cover to the material. The birds all seem to be flying in somewhat similar directions. The characters in these stories certainly are not. The birds are different in color. These stories are centered on the African American experience in the town of Cross River. But maybe, no matter what color bird we are or what direction we're facing, we're all in the shit together and wouldn't it be nice if we could all give each other a little draft? Ok, probably too deep and far afield. Let's just say I love this cover, deep imagery or not.