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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Will Do Magic For Small Change--A Very Mixed Bag

I really wanted to love Will Do Magic For Small Change by Andrea Hairston.  It started so well, but my level of engagement with this fantasy novel wasn't sustained at a consistent level.  I read it for a Goodreads folklore/mythology group that had chosen it as a book of the month.  I consider myself a student of folklore, mythology and all spiritual paths.  This book contains West African folklore and religious practices.


I did love scenes and sequences in this book that I found moving and poignant.  There were times when the characters and relationships felt real and true, and there were times when they felt distant and superficial.  One of the perennial problems with the writing was telling readers about events through dialogue instead of showing us these events as they happened so that readers can experience them. 

 There was a point when the narrative seemed so tedious that I nearly abandoned the book, but then I encountered a character that I thought had great potential, and I fell in love with Will Do Magic For Small Change all over again.

This was the character who was introduced as a homeless Eshu who would "do magic for small change".  Eshu is one of the Yoruban spirits known as the Orisha.  He is called the opener of the way.  No enterprise can begin without him.  So you would think that he'd be widely beloved and respected.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.   He is often viewed very negatively and regarded as suspect.   Yes, he can be a trickster, but he also can be a good friend to those who treat him well.  I appreciated that Eshu was portrayed so favorably by Andrea Hairston in Will Do Magic For Small Change.

I also am impressed by books that mention history that was previously unknown to me.  I enjoy researching these references, so that I can find out more--particularly when the history involves women or minorities.  There were two instances of  historical references that I wanted to pursue further in Will Do Magic For Small Change. 

 One was Emily Warren Roebling  who took over  the building of the Brooklyn Bridge when her husband became ill.  The Wikipedia article that I've linked led me to a biography so that I can read more about this extraordinary woman.

A character in this novel revealed at one point that members of her Japanese American family were interned at the Gila River Relocation Center during WWII. Japanese American internment was shameful regardless of the location where they were imprisoned, but this particular internment camp was built on a Native American reservation.  The Pima and Maricopa peoples who lived on that reservation objected to the existence of the camp.  So the United States government was violating the treaty that established the reservation in addition to violating the rights of the Japanese American internees.  I wasn't aware of  the Gila River internment site.  I would like to know more about conditions there.

Although there were portions of Will Do Magic For Small Change that I was glad I read, I was ultimately disappointed by it since I hoped that it would be better written.



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