It is hard to find an African American protagonist prominently featured and favorably depicted in a book about the American West. Durham's new book resonates with historical values and cogent dialogue about a young boy's journey into manhood while living on the plains of Kansas.
The story takes place in the 1870s during Reconstruction. Gabriel becomes dismayed with the rural way of life and begins a long and tenuous trek across the west, not really certain what he is searching for. Gabriel's leap into manhood is challenging and filed with melancholy. On his journey he encounters a number of unsavory characters, from misfits to martyrs.
While Gabriel's Story is complete with solid character development and a plausible story line, it becomes mired with unimportant details that detract from the main event of any situation. For example, during one of his many nights in the woods, the author spends too much time describing the scenery and objects in the sky. Overly explicit passages are frequent throughout the book and usually proceed a vital moment.
Durham, who won the prestigious Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Fiction Award nearly a decade ago, is welcomed back to the cadre of African American writers on the scene today. However, it is clear that Gabriel's Story is not as strong a novel as he is capable of producing. Perhaps his knack for literary description and character development would be much more appreciated in a modern venue.
Glenn Townes, a regular contributor to BIBR, is a journalist in New Jersey.
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|Publication:||Black Issues Book Review|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2001|
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