American Dreams share button
Format Paperback
Dimensions 5.18 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 0.43 (d)
Pages 192
Publisher Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication Date June 1996
ISBN 9780679767992
Book ISBN 10 0679767991
About Book

In the tradition of Alice Walker, this electrifying new African American voice delivers the verdict on the urban condition in a sensual, propulsive, and prophetic book of poetry and prose.

Whether she is writing about an enraged teenager gone "wilding" in Central Park, fifteen-year-old Latasha Harlins gunned down by a Korean grocer, or a brutalized child who grows up to escape her probable fate through the miracle of art, Sapphire's vision in this collection of poetry and prose is unswervingly honest.

"Stunning . . . . One of the strongest debut collections of the '90s."—Publishers Weekly


Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly

In one of the strongest debut collections of the 90s, this black lesbian feminist presents a fusion of poetry and prose, interspersed with short stories. Not for the squeamish, Sapphire's imagery is so fierce that readers will want to spread out the book over several sittings. Accounts of a young girl's rape by her father frame and inform all else, but Sapphire draws in irony as a buffer: in one extremely vivid poem, familiar phrases from the Mickey Mouse Club alternate with memories of assault. Early in her career, this writer felt the need to tell the stories of all victims (Tawana Brawley, the Central Park jogger, a nameless woman she meets on the bus), but to accomplish this she must adopt their emotional horrors as her own. ``Now that you know, / you can begin / to heal,'' the first poem ends. It is this commitment to human sensitivity that makes the terrifying exploits described here palatable. It also permits the narrator, 80 pages later, to describe the grief she feels at her mother's deathbed. Perfectly paced, sidestepping explication, Sapphire's words provide pointers to her characters' dramas, but she's still capable of stunning readers with a final image. (Feb.)

Library Journal

These riveting vignettes--some are poems, others short prose works--offer a real voice speaking on topics too often distorted by media hype: sexual abuse, prostitution, racial and sexual violence, lesbian love, and mother-daughter relations. In spite of a tendency toward cliche, the confessional pieces included here are painful and affecting; their explicit, sordid detail is utterly convincing, and the author's intelligence allows her to generalize beyond personal anger and pain. Dramatizations of such public events as the Central Park wilding incident and the Los Angeles shooting of a black teenager by a Korean American grocer, however, seem merely descriptive and sensational. This is volatile stuff, and not all of it works, but the pieces that do, go over with a bang. Recommended.-- Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York