Curbstone Press (May 2002), $15.95
This poetic view of African-American life in the ever-changing landscape of the Fillmore District is overflowing with graceful panoramas and a soul-baring cast of characters. Devorah major's second published work of fiction, Brown Glass Windows reads like a walk down memory lane on a clear day. The book centers around the members of the Everman tribe as they struggle to survive the shifting world around them. The story relies mostly on the narration of an ancient ghostly companion to Victoria, an elderly woman who wears all white and paints her face the same; this spirit keeps tabs on the lives and relationships of Victoria's living neighbors, the Evermans. Although she's interesting, Victoria's an odd choice as a major character -- the author offers little background about her, so her place in the story is never quite clear. Unfortunately, the most heart-wrenching and anchoring character of the book, Elliott "Ranger" Everman, a Vietnam vet turned drug addict, seems to play a secondary role, and is mostly referred to throughout the book.
Not since Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings or April Sinclair's Coffee Will Make You Black have I read such a fluid, relaxed interpretation of African-American community. Major has painted an exquisite picture of the truths we've all known, without intentionally exploiting the ugliness of their realities. The book touches on subjects like racism, drug addiction, and crime, discussing them as prevalent but not overpowering subjects in our society. Major, recently named San Francisco's third poet laureate, is an intelligent, provocative storyteller who excels at revealing the bigger picture.