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The Black Bible Chronicles: A Survival Manual for the Streets.

HOUSTON - In recasting the Old Testament into The Black Bible Chronicles: A Survival Manual for the Streets, Houston author P.K McCary called on many elements of her rich and varied 40 years of living.

McCary is a lecturer, actress and journalist who has known the downside of life as a homeless mother of three. She is a storyteller with a flair for mimicry, an ear for regional cadence and an eagerness to listen to the young.

So her telling of creation goes:

"Now when the Almighty was first down with His program, He made the heavens and the earth. The earth was a fashion misfit, being so uncool and dark, but the Spirit of the Almighty came down real tough, so that He simply said, |Lighten Up!'

"And that light was right on time."

Like McCary, The Black Bible Chronicles (African American Family Press, $14.95) pulls no punches. Scripture and hip young students of the Good Book never had it this way before.

Even critics who disagree with McCarys modern approach to the Pentateuch, the Bible's first five books, may have to admit she is reaching young people where they live, breathe and talk jive.

The Black Bible Chronicles stems mainly from McCary's ability to listen to kids and discover new ways to help them relate to some of the greatest stories ever told.

"We think that we're the ones that can teach, but actually we are all teachers and students in this life," said McCary, a woman of presence, humor and broad gestures. "We need to be willing to learn."

In the book, she does Adam and Eve with a flair for rhythm and drama. In the account, God is real, a palpable presence in these stories.

The book spotlights how humans respond in an encounter with the divine. It shows an appreciation of storytelling, incorporating the sort of offbeat outlook that viewers loved when comedian Bill Cosby dramatized Noah and the Great Flood for television.

In McCary's account: "Now the serpent was one bad dude, one of the baddest of the animals the Almighty had made. And the serpent spoke to the sister and asked, |You mean the Almighty told you not to eat of all the trees in the garden?' and the sister told him, |Yeah, snake, I can eat of these trees, just not the tree of knowledge or the Almighty said I'd be knocked off.' and the bad ol' serpent told the sister, |Nah, sister, he's feeding you a line of bull.'"

Down-home style worked well for the early church, says former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, in a foreword to McCary's book.

"This is in keeping with the very origins of the Bible," said Young, who is an ordained minister. "The New Testament was originally written in Koine Greek, the street language of the people. Subsequently, Martin Luther and others translated the Bible into the language of the people of their day."

For private devotions, McCary, a Baptist, still reads the majestic King James Version. But she hopes her streetwise interpretation will lure readers who otherwise might never know biblical patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac or Jacob.

McCary, a mother of three children, knows what it is like to be down and out. Five years ago she survived several months of homelessness, living with her children in an Atlanta shelter after a job lead turned sour and she became ill.

McCary landed on her feet. And her new book - with a 40,000 first printing - is one of the steps back to a more normal existence. She now lives with her mother in Houston.

But the tough experiences deepened her empathy for alienated youth, even smart alecks forced to listen to her presentations. She said many of those kids are looking for a spiritual anchor, longing for a God they can know and understand.
COPYRIGHT 1993 National Catholic Reporter
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Holmes-White, Cecile
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 15, 1993
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