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Rise and Fly: Tall Tales and Mostly True Rules of Bid Whist.

Rise and Fly: Tall Tales and Mostly True Rules of Bid Whist by Greg Morrison and Yanick Rice Lamb Three Rivers Press, August 2005 $12, ISBN 1-400-05168-1

How can it be stressful to read such a readable and entertaining book such as Rise and Fly? Because authors Greg Morrison and Yanick Rice Lamb bluntly explain why bid whist--black America's card game of choice--is so demanding.

Two decades ago, a colleague tried to teach me to play during a road trip. I was not catching on right away, so I bowed out because I sensed bid whist was no game for amateurs. As the coauthors explain, "Bid whist is a friendly game, but not a polite one. You're supposed to talk trash, sell wolf tickets, blaze 'em, kill 'era, diss 'em. Get the point?"

This not so tongue-in-cheek advice suggests that a lot of Jekyll and Hyde behavior goes on at card tables around the country, and there are people in need of 12-step programs or therapy.

Yet, even if you're shaky at cards or very young, you may be drafted to play at a party, and you better bring it. C. Adrienne Rhodes, a baby boomer, explained that when her grandfather and uncles in New Jersey drafted her when she was age 12 to play because they were short one player: "It didn't matter that she was a girl. Pop-Pop, Uncle Punk, and Uncle Nacky cut her no slack. They were good guys, but they were tough. They didn't baby you. They would curse you out if you lost."

Rhodes's recollection is revealing because a number of black executives and other professionals probably use bid-whist strategies to get over in corporate America and in government. These folks can bluff and exude confidence, even during moments of peril.

Rise and Fly is a slim book, 156 pages, yet few words are wasted. We get a concise history lesson: Black folks' favorite card game traces its roots to the Civil War, and during the early 1900s, when America was a railroad culture, black sleeping-car porters played lots of cards during their off hours. It figures then that the porters came up with bid whist's most memorable terms: "Boston," "Uptown, Downtown" and other phrases.

Nine anecdote-rich and explanatory chapters are supported with a glossary, resources, listings of bid whist clubs, online groups and tournaments.

For people thinking of learning to play cards, Rise and Fly is a great book to have. You never know when some friends might be short a player at a party, eyes turn in your direction, and you have to deliver, or else.

--Reviewed by Wayne Dawkins Wayne Dawkins is an author and president of August Press LLC in Newport News, Virginia
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Author:Dawkins, Wayne
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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