I’ve been quiet since just before July, because I’ve been bombarded by personal issues that I may or may not get into based on their outcome. Suffice to say I feel like I’ve been treading water and things are in an interesting place. I’m trying not to stress too much, but then again I suppose stress is the name of the game in adulthood, right?
As summer winds down though (ah it makes me sad to write that!) I guess I’m doing as well as I could hope. I just recently passed a year of tutoring co-workers in the use of the JAWS For Windows screen-reader. I can honestly say that my ability to work one-on-one has markedly improved. I’ve learned a thing or two about pacing, and am just more able to communicate complex concepts to my clients.
To that end and with growth in mind I suppose, the Workforce Development Specialist had recently asked me to try my hand at teaching the entire class. We’ve for the last month or so been instructing individuals in the general use of the keyboard, including how to type with the home row at center and what all of the keys do. To do this, we took advantage of a program called Talking Typer that allows one to press any key and get feedback, as well as to complete various drills designed to speed typing up incrementally. The main challenge we have is that, since the program has not been purchased, we must log off and back on every fifteen minutes. This is not a huge deal though, and it has also given our newbie typers plenty of opportunity to practice.
Anyhow, so I tried my hand at teaching this Tuesday. And because I believe in transparency and will report how things go no matter the outcome, I will say that I did not do nearly as well as I would have liked. Most of the difficulty stems from my hearing loss, as in order to do the job effectively I would have needed to be able to monitor what was going on at each station or at least establish some kind of call and response system so that I would know how each person was doing. I found it hard to even get everyone’s attention when preparing to start, and thus kind of gave in eventually and just worked with the person I’d had for the entire course. My bumblings were saved by the other tutor in the class, a pretty talented guy who quickly figured out how to redirect the students and managed to walk them through a few word and typing drills.
I’m trying not to beat myself up about it too badly though, as it was a learning opportunity and not everyone is going to be sharp at everything. I think that naturally I will be better in one-on-one settings, or perhaps working remotely with multiple individuals since maintaining awareness of what all are doing will be less challenging. We shall see though, of course, and in any event the most important thing I can do for myself is to expand my skill set.
So that’s the most interesting piece of my current, chaotic existence on which I can report. It certainly reiterates my oft-stated respect for the teaching profession. What y’all teachers do is not easy! And you need more love for it. I do hope to continue my career-advancing moves by getting a JAWS certification from Freedom Scientific, continuing to work with my cousin in learning how to effectively tutor as I have been for some time, and oh yeah work on polishing my writing skills. It’s sadly still an uphill slog in employment for those of us with disabilities, but I figure that by noting my path through this process I make it a little easier for anyone who comes behind me.
Back in mid April, I had the bright idea to turn on the Twitter feed for the National Book Critics Circle. In so doing, I quickly discovered their Emerging Critics program, in which would-be book reviewers are paired with mentors and taught the ins and outs of soliciting freelance writing work. I think they also help with editing manuscripts and provide workshops with people who have made it in the business. And the best part? Little experience would be required, as long as one demonstrates an ability to think critically and write clearly about a book.
I knew I had to attempt applying for this organization, especially as it is one of the most respected outlets of its kind and the name alone would likely open doors for me. So I submitted my application—which required three sample reviews, a personal statement, two references, and a resume—on May 1. Hundreds of people competed for ten slots, and a month later I finally learned that I hadn’t made the cut. Of course I understood the odds, but it still took me a few days to pick myself off of the mat and get back on it.
But I am nothing if not resilient, and each exposure to rejection makes my skin a little tougher. It will have to be in order to enter the world of writing, of that I am well aware. So I asked myself, what next? Time to go online and find some kind of writers workshops that would help me sharpen my skills. And that’s what I’m now doing, as the author Francesca Serritella, Lisa Scottoline’s daughter, unwittingly linked me to something called the Dallas Writers Workshop. Their headquarters and personal meetings are in fact in Dallas, Texas, but they also have a lot of activities that can be completed online. The first of these I saw that really looked compelling is going to be taught by James Tate Hill, a blind individual who’s memoir Blind Man’s Bluff I had coincidentally just read with my Facebook book club Friends and Books. This is a group of blind folks who discuss monthly picks and whatever else we happen to be reading. Anyway, Mr. Tate Hill’s workshop is to be on short story construction, and it would allow you to work with and have your work evaluated by him and other students. It’s a little steep for my wallet at the moment, though I do plan to take a later offering from him perhaps after we get our home purchase squared away.
So I chose an eight-week independent study workshop on how to write works of fiction, novels in particular. I’m still toiling away at my book, an Excerpt of which I made available earlier. Already, listening to the instructor of this workshop explain the basic elements of a story has helped me tremendously. The first week’s assignment was to combine the four elements, using a selection of mix and match scenarios and generate a piece of flash fiction. I was surprised that once I started typing, the words flowed relatively freely from my fingers. I am definitely looking forward to what I will learn in the following seven weeks. And I hope that watching my journey to bestseller status (yeah I know getting ahead of myself, but a man can dream!) will help others. You won’t make everything you try for, but you can for sure learn from each attempt.
As a blind person I have enjoyed the rise of food delivery services such as Door Dash and Uber Eats, as they give me more options than pizza if I need a good mea and no one is available to transport me. I am aware of the controversy that surrounds such services, and particularly their somewhat fraught relationship with restaurants. I hope though that the paring is beneficial enough, as especially proven to be the case during this protracted pandemic period. I for one don’t even know how much money I have squirreled away grabbing things new and long enjoyed.
What I hadn’t really known is how the experience is for those who do the legwork for these businesses. Until my wife decided to become a Dasher. This is what Door Dash calls its food couriers, I guess trying to be humorous and, more importantly, to indicate the supposed speediness of the food’s transmission to its recipient. She initiated her run in this position yesterday, and I rode shotgun just to see what was what.
First, she rolled into a parking lot near one of the busiest areas of Cary, called Crossroads, powered down the engine and launched the app. Dashers use a special app that instructs them along the way as they make each delivery. The time then was shortly before 4:45 PM, and upon being asked how long she wished to continue she indicated that 6 would be her stop time. I do like that they allow you to set this, as it allows you to remain in control of your day and know when you might want to be done. It seems easy to get lost in delivering and have several hours go by before one knows it (well sort of, as dwindling supplies of expensive gas would also alert you, but that’s another post).
Anyway, the only thing she had to do then was await an order. And it didn’t take too long for the first one to roll in. A woman wanted three items from China King, which was less than two miles from our current location. This order was immediately available when she went inside, and so she snagged it and slid it inside her insulated bag. Then, she used the app’s built-in GPS to navigate to the customer’s apartment. The challenge here is that since it doesn’t allow you to use Google Maps, you can’t interface it with Android Auto. So she couldn’t view navigation instructions on the screen, and will thus need to get a phone jack. The apartment we needed to reach was also not far away and the delivery contactless, so she completed that and got another order right away.
The second person wanted six items from a Mediterranean restaurant called Kebab Skewer. Maybe he was having a party? There was a little more of a drive getting to this location and to the guy’s home, was very nice
with a couple of floors and a garage. She did wave to him through the kitchen window, but was able to leave the food there for pick-up.
It was already about 5:40, so we deduced that this third order would be the last one. It was to be from a place called Totopas. She had initially rejected it, but then determined that she was already relatively close to the location and chose to accept it. The only thing this customer, a woman who seemed to be a college student, wanted was a Vegan taco. This surprisingly took a little longer to be prepared, but she got it and we headed from Kildaire Farm Road in South Cary to her location not far from NC State University in Raleigh. This was a decent apartment that required a key fob to enter the building, but had no buzzer for would-be arrivals to press, so she had to call the person once she was there to make the exchange. This went without a hitch, and we were done.
On the whole I think she found the experience to be satisfying, and maybe even enjoyable. The income was decent, of course it would be better if the affore-mentioned gas weren’t through the roof. But I guess if one has the patience for it and doesn’t mind a little driving, it’s an acceptable way to hustle. You can turn down orders that you feel are too far away, and of course you can stop and start whenever you want. Now that I’ve seen how things look from that side, I feel a little better about utilizing these services, with the already noted caveat regarding how they might or might not benefit restaurants. Anyhow, that was a different experience for a Saturday in a time and period that has largely been monolithic. We’ll see what new fun I can get into in coming days.
What! A! Week! That’s about all I can say after having an at-work experience unlike any other. I was selected, due to my on-and-off tutoring of employees on Jaws for Windows and basic PC skills, to participate in a company-wide training. We’re working to expose everyone to UKG Pro, the HR Management Solution our company adopted nearly 2 years ago but of which many blind and low-vision workers there had yet to avail themselves. I have to admit that at first accessibility for this platform was limited, but it has made leaps and bounds in recent months. So they’re mostly hoping to take advantage of that fact to make Open Enrollment into our insurance and benefits plan, which starts next week, perhaps a little easier on HR.
I was told that I would be a part of this effort with only a day’s notice, as we initiated a soft rollout last Thursday before turning on the juice this week. Once full sessions were underway, I worked back in what we call the Workforce Innovation Center (WIC) which is really just a room full of computers, from Monday through Thursday with five sessions: 8-845, 9-945, 12-12:45, 1-1:45, and 2-2:45. Each of these days two of these sessions were conducted over Zoom, so that we could reach all of the other facilities affiliated with my company.
It probably surprises no one that I and we had a few glitches. My main task was to demonstrate how to log onto the system and proceed through the various link groups to locate sought-after information such as pay stubs and a list of current benefits. The main challenge was probably getting one’s password entered before the system times out or locks you out. Last Thursday was a complete bust for me for this reason, because I had unknowingly turned on the Caps lock and tried three times to enter my password, thus prompting a need for password reset. I had to suspend my attempts to show the individual with whom I was working how to log in, but luckily he seemed as computer savvy as I was so I feel confident he was able to figure it out on his own. They’re tight on security, understandably, requiring that said passwords be changed every 90 days no matter how often one logs in. We definitely had fun explaining this to the masses.
I also had issues getting the sound to a comfortable level for listeners on the other end. I hadn’t been made aware of this until the second-to-last conference though, so I feel bad for the folks who were forced to endure a blaring Jaws in their ears. But hey, one can’t know unless one is told.
Those difficulties aside, I mostly enjoyed the week. It took a little while to get used to the mental heavy-lifting required to do these presentations over and over again, adjusting as needed to different questions. But I was able to work sort of successfully with at least one individual, not quite getting him to login because he’s still learning the keyboard, but at least boosting his confidence in the ability to do so. Also, on Wednesday and Thursday she had the other tutor and I do more of the talk, only reading off the brief introduction. My voice got a little tired, but I think I sounded pretty good and was able to deliver a relatively stable speech by the end. The challenge of course is to make it as lively the 30th time as it was the 2nd, because each is done with a new audience. And I have to, I think, do a few more of them this coming week as well.
It was a real honor to be asked to take on such a task. I’ve had a few people come up and thank me personally, saying I’d done a great job and seemed to know the computer well. And while I am not necessarily expecting external reward, I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t make me feel good. More than anything, this presents a real chance to advance my career. And that’s the part to which I am looking forward most. We shall see.
As soon as I came across this show, I knew I had to check it out. If you recall from the HBO Max post I did a couple years ago (a couple years already? Wow!) you’ll know that I’m a big fan of the show Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And while I don’t usually care for reboots in general, I figured this one might be interesting.
Before I get to my thoughts about the series though, I first want to comment on streaming apps and accessibility from a blindness perspective. This has improved markedly in those two years, and I know we have many tireless folks working in the background to thank for that. Now, unlike then, I can interact with most of the apps’ interfaces and get them to work, instead of or in addition to using the Apple TV app to launch shows. And thankfully, most shows are also including audio description, which for the uninitiated is a track that explains to those of us who are blind the visual aspects that we would normally miss. I saw that Bel-Air had this, so I opted to pony up for the lower tier Peacock subscription that requires watching ads. There are only a couple ads per set, and they are a lot shorter than one sees on regular TV anyway.
So that noted, I shall speak a little about the show itself. Immediately, one is struck by the vastly different tone that “Bel-Air” takes compared to the TV show from which it draws inspiration. This is in no way comedic, as we see right from the start when Will Smith’s original Fresh Prince rap is played out and he “got in one (not so) little fight” on the basketball court. This fight ended in gunshots, and found Will behind bars. After his uncle springs him with a little help from his friends, Will is taken from Philadelphia to Los Angeles where he encounters Jazz. Jazz is a driver, and he gives Will a lift to the Banks residence in a car that bears some resemblance to that referred to in Will’s song as well.
The characters have similarities and big differences from those we saw in the original series. Will, ironically played by an actor with the actual last name Banks, sounds a lot the same but perhaps a bit flatter in emotional and vocal affect. Hilary and Jazz are both still kind of strange, but in less silly ways than they had been. They do end up drifting together as the show goes on in a more realistic way.
Ashley is only minimally seen throughout much of this season, but she does provide a rare platform from which to look at how LGBTQ issues play out in the Black community. This idea is spoken of little anywhere, and it certainly is rarely examined in a television program.
And Carleton? Well at first we are given the impression that he is just a complete jerk. But slowly his anxiety and illicit drug use reveal themselves, and the character’s actions become more understandable. If you think about it, you could certainly see some vestiges of that in the original show’s Carleton character. Finally, the way that Lisa and Will come together is also more realistic. She’s a long-time family friend who had dated Carleton, but their relationship was already starting to fall apart before Will drifted into the picture.
This series presents more like a long movie than the episodic Fresh Prince, and I think one has to watch the shows in order to follow entirely what is going on. But I thoroughly enjoyed the drama, feeling like it really started to find its way by season’s end with a show that was, when seen against the previous series, a combination of the famous show where Will encounters his father (Season 5) and the show that ended Season 1. It was a powerful episode, and it leaves us ready and willing to watch the Season 2 that I hope is coming.
Ah, my slightly late annual look at how things are changing or not on the job front has arrived. It’s the ninth (9th!) such post in this series, and my mind is boggled by how many there have been. How quickly does time fly.
Anyway, I guess things are slowly shifting as I move toward what I hope will be a fulfilling career as I bound along through middle age. Things are basically unchanged in the plant, as we call the manufacturing facility where I am employed. I’m still in Omni Glow, the name for the light sticks we package, as I have been since September of 2013. Ten sticks to a box, sling it onto the conveyor belt, grab the next handful, stuff, slide, and on and on and on. As with each year before I am faster than ever, because the rhythm when really established makes the day go by in a blink. I basically aim to stay awake, do the highest quality job possible, and head home at 3:20. I’m always amazed when I manage to catch faulty sticks even as they race through my fingers quickly enough to leave the occasional papercut. The past two weeks have been the best in months, because we’ve finally obtained enough product to really get going without being stuck and sent back to rework or worse, the pointless counting of buckles into already worn plastic bags as a time-killer.
Even as I work the “day job,” I am aspiring for more. As I’ve often discussed since it started, one of the main ways I’m planning to do this is through tutoring other blind individuals on assistive technology. I’ve now had three students at the plant, and with each I’ve gotten a little better. The last finally got me to open up more, and by the end I was talking to him before sessions started and after they ended. As others have told me, this not only makes the student more comfortable, it also puts me at ease and allows me to not stress as much about everything going perfectly with a lesson. After all, it’s about connecting with the other and finding out what a given student truly needs.
It’s been a couple months since I had my last student, so in that time I’ve been working to sharpen up. I did a couple of mock sessions with other tutors, which took me back to the days of grad school in the University of North Carolina’s then-named Rehab Counseling and Psychology Master’s program where we did these sorts of sessions for video tape. They do help though, as they show me how tight I had previously been and how smoothly I can teach if I let myself.
And even more recently, I’m being tutored by my cousin. He’s taking the online assistive technology program at World Services for the Blind, and thus has mastered many of the techniques involved in the delicate work of helping others. We’re working specifically on using Jaws for Windows with Outlook, but I think a lot of what I’m learning can be applied more broadly as I come to understand pacing, proper use of lesson and guides, and the like. I’m also grabbing a lot of material from the Freedom Scientific Training page so that I might use it in conjunction with these newly acquired techniques to actually help whomever I am assigned to next. Truthfully, working with him is instilling discipline as well, as I’m having to come home from work and shift gears twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays at 6 PM. This is a real challenge sometimes!
And that’s this year’s Job Days update. Things are getting really interesting around these quarters, and I hope to have even more exciting news to report to you soon.
Recent high-profile cases have shone a spotlight on issues regarding disability and independence. To what degree should one make decisions about one’s life, even if not fully able to perceive the world in what is deemed a “normal” way. Should family be able to basically dictate how a person is to live, simply because they believe they are protecting the individual from harm, thus possibly denying access to choices that other adults expect to have?
In his debut novel The Sign for Home, Blair Fell addresses this issue in a novel way. First, we have Arlo, a DeafBlind individual who resides with his devout Jehovah’s Witness uncle and receives information via a Tactile American Sign Language (TSL) interpreter who professes to believe the same. Arlo, wishing to explore possibilities in writing, enrolls in a class at a Poughkeepsie (NY) community college where he meets Cyril, another interpreter who accidentally or on purpose opens Arlo to a whole new world.
This writing class, taught by an unusual professor from St. Kitts, leads Arlo to explore parts of his past that he had been forced to shut away because his uncle deemed them sinful. These included an encounter with a deaf girl while he attended the School for the Deaf that led to his being sent to live with said uncle in the first place.
As the story unfolds, we learn that things with this girl are not as they seem. Arlo had been told one story about “the event” that ultimately ended their blossoming love affair, but… well as it turns out everyone has their secrets and lies. As the truth is revealed and Cyril and his associated cast of characters make Arlo more aware of possibilities regarding independence, he begins to push back against his uncle and Molly, the initial interpreter. This eventually leads to his seeking total freedom from his uncle’s guardianship.
Arlo and Cyril are primarily featured, with Arlo’s perspective being second person present and Cyril’s first person past. Both of these methods allow the reader to connect deeply with what is going on, offering a different set of feelings based on each. The former seems designed to ensure that one feels the experience of DeafBlindness and coping with a world neither heard nor seen insomuch as one can truly experience this, while the latter aims to allow access to the complicated emotions involved in helping Arlo deal with change.
At points during this novel, I as a DeafBlind person worried that the portrayal of Arlo made life for those living with these disabilities seem too simplistic and/or sad. Arlo knew little about how to operate in society when it came to moving around by himself and being willing to explore the wider world. The first part of this of course is that for some individuals who are DeafBlind, just as for those with other challenges, this is a true outcome. If one is not exposed to people and services such as Orientation and Mobility and Vocational Rehabilitation that are designed to help a person with a disability learn what is needed to thrive, one might indeed have a hard time. Even so, I appreciated that Fell included people who were functionally independent and who knew enough to teach Arlo, Cyril, and all in their circle some basic strategies to make his life easier. It is realistic, after all, to show that one might struggle with life as a DeafBlind person, but I believe it is equally if not more important to show that life can still be lived well with this or whatever condition one finds oneself.
Welcome to the best rivalry in all of sports! And yes Yankees/Red Sox fans, this is true. For if you’ve ever spent time in Tar Heel Territory (because there is no Duke territory or if there is it’s in New Jersey somewhere) you know the bad blood that flows along Tobacco Road. And yes it’s done respectfully, mostly, because we’re still Southern after all, y’all.
Even with all those classic matchups, we have never had one this big. In fact, it surprises me to learn that the two teams hadn’t even met in the NCAA Tournament before. I guess either one or the other would go far in their days of greatness. And what do you know, in Coach K’s last season and Hubert Davis’s very first we finally get the epic matchup that will serve as his perfect career sendoff, because there’s no way they’re winning that game. Ok ok, I’d better not talk too much noise or I might end up eating my words on Saturday, but ah well. In any event, the week leading up to the game is going to be fun, as my wife and I stand on different sides of that line. We’ll both wear our shirts on the day of and try to cheer our teams on to victory.
I vaguely remember when I was introduced to this rivalry, sometime in the late 80s. I barely understood sports then. But my dad had me in his room, which was a den sort of area in the back of the house that he had equipped with a minifridge, a leather couch and a recliner. I rarely entered this room uninvited, but on occasion he would allow me to accompany him to listen to music or have some long conversation out of everyone else’s ear. Anyway, he turned on the game and told me, in his thick unusual accent, that “Naw-Calana” was playing.
“Naw-calana?” I asked.
“Yeah! The school in Chapel Hill,” he replied. Not that I even knew what that meant at the time. I thought maybe he was referring to some other state and just settled in as he tried to explain to me the vagaries of basketball.
In this area you tend to take on the fandom of your family, unless daring enough to march to your own beat. So, I did this once more able to comprehend what this all meant, watching Carolina games with a fervor starting in 1993. The games they play with Duke are something like a holiday: whether in Duke’s old and small Cameron Indoor Stadium or in UNC’s (relatively) newer Smith Center you can count on the intensity. And records don’t matter either, as both teams leave everything they have on the floor once that game gets going.
So to have this game set during the Final Four in the part of March Madness that actually occurs in April is going to be something special. I know the other two teams, the University of Kansas and Villanova University, are probably champing at the bit to get whomever is left though, as the Duke UNC winner is going to have a task getting up for the National Championship. We shall see what happens, but here’s hoping the right, CAROLINA blue will reign supreme by Saturday night’s end. Go Heels!
Now all we await is the delivery (e. g. construction). That’s right, this time about a week ago we were told to make our deposit so that the contract could be drawn up.
As soon as my wife noticed that she had received the message, somewhere around 2 PM on Tuesday prior, she zipped out of her workplace and got to work shoring up the dollars needed to complete the transaction. As she worked on the form from home at about 4:30, I sat on the bed across from her computer desk in the small room that occupies the top floor of this apartment feeling a range of emotions. I think even the Pomeranian sensed that major change was afoot as she bounced back and forth between me and the desk, getting me to pet her as her tail wagged hard enough to generate wind. Dogs really can feel what we’re going through better than most humans can.
After checking and double checking that everything was as correct as she could get it she whacked the “Submit” button, and a good piece of dough along with our hopes and dreams raced down the wire. Confirmation came that all had been done on our end, and we just twiddled our thumbs waiting for the contract which arrived on Thursday evening. In it we learned our address, on a road that does not actually exist just yet but will soon. We will also be required to inhabit the residence for at least two years, but after making a decision of this magnitude I would bet that we will remain there for a good deal longer. We are already over four years in our current apartment anyway, so that should be no problem. I do not think there were any major hold-ups therein, other than a noting of the amount of time the company was giving itself to have the house constructed before we could be released from the agreement. As I’ve said before, that’s going to be the biggest “fingers-crossed” portion of this, as of course some of it—weather, supply chain issues — is out of their control. Anyhow, we did all the fun electronic stuff to put both of our signatures on the contract, and now we basically are just awaiting that distant closing sometime towards the end of the year and hoping to secure enough funds to clear that final hurtle. I guess the best news here is that we do avoid all that due diligence and outbidding madness, and thus will experience a lot less stress.
Meanwhile, we’re doing a few trips by the area and really familiarizing ourselves with it. Google tells you a lot, but just driving around and taking a look says a lot more. (And yes, we are avoiding that pesky alarm by staying far enough away from the actual residence). I guess the only real challenge I see so far will be that my work commute time will nearly double. But I’m ok with this, more so in the morning than in the evening when I wish to just get home, but we’ll just see how everything plays out. Transportation should be no problem at least, since though we are on Raleigh’s fringes, almost in Garner, we are at least still within Raleigh city limits. It’s hard to find something affordable and yet close enough to my current employer, but I can live with that sacrifice. More podcasts, books and the like will just be taken in on the ride.
I do not know when the next installment of this series will be posted, but probably shortly after building commences. Oh and that’s another thing, the contract says we must meet with our builders 3 times to discuss how things are being laid out and whatever tweaks we wish to make. We’ll be bringing along someone who kind of knows what they’re looking at with regards to construction to help us with this. More once all that fun gets started. Till then, continue to wish us luck.
Every town and city, any place we call home with pride likely has within itself some less-than-desirable era or characteristic. For my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, this era hit its zenith during the 1960s, as the city sought to dismantle the predominantly Black Brooklyn community that was then located in Second Ward, which is primarily downtown. They saw “blight,” a lot of which did truly exist yes, but they also envisioned a chance to make a lot more money by establishing what would become one of the world’s premier banking centers.
Anna Jean Mayhew fictionalizes the events leading to this hostile takeover of sorts in her 2019 novel Tomorrow’s Bread, a tite derived from a Langston Hughes poem that calls on us all to stand up for what we need today rather than waiting for some promised tomorrow that might then never arrive. It centers on Loraylee Hawkins, a young Black mother who works at the S and W cafeteria, one of the great diners of that area, as a server. The portion of the story which she directly tells is written in partial dialect so that the reader gets a feel for how she and those around her talked. She stayed with her grandmother, whom she called “Bibi,” and her uncle Ray. Bibi experiences memory loss and must thus be watched very closely, while Uncle Ray acts as a father figure for her child whom they call “Hawk”. As is a truism in the Black community about which many often joke, nearly all of the people in this book have nicknames.
Also true is the idea of a multi-generational family living in a somewhat rundown abode that they nevertheless own with pride. As their house is threatened by the coming “urban renewal,” Loraylee interacts with Persy Marshall, the wife of one of the most zealous attorneys who wishes to set these changes in motion. This alters Persy’s feelings about things, and she works to try and influence her husband to little avail.
Throughout his relatively short piece, we see ways in which segregation had and hadn’t changed, and the impact this had on the psyche of Black folks and white folks alike. Potential relationships not to be, trips to the beach and other waterways fraught with possible danger, and the little regard given to those who were powerless to control their ultimate destinies. Against all that tragedy though, Mayhew displays a city vibrant with fun and chaos as well, taking us into a local juke joint, a locally owned grocery store, and a shoe repair shop, to name a few. As a Charlottean myself, I learned a lot about this city from which I originate with pride, some of which I liked and some of which made me very sad. I also enjoyed the many bits that brought back childhood memories, such as radio stations, churches and street with which I am familiar. Overall, this is the most complete portrayal of the Queen City I have ever come across, as so many other novels that purport to take place there feel as if they could have been set anywhere. I think locals especially but everyone who wants to understand the possible harms and benefits of Urban renewal generally should check this book out.