Brown Glass Windows
by Devorah Major
Category: Fiction / General
194 pages; ISBN: 188068487X
Rating: 9/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Paul Lappen
This novel is about a family who live on Fillmore Street in present-day San Francisco. Formerly a thriving, close-knit place to live, the street is in the process of being gentrified out of existence.
Jamal, a graffiti artist who calls himself “Sketch,” lives with his grandmother. Jamal’s father, Ranger, came back from Vietnam a cocaine addict and spends most of his time living on the streets. Ironically, just when Ranger seems to have his addiction actually conquered, he is caught in the middle of a drive-by shooting. Because of the family’s built-up resentments and recriminations, a period of emotional turmoil results, and, each in their own way, the family comes out the other end stronger and more united than ever.
The family is helped in their journey by an older, eccentric woman named Victoria. Never one to venture outside without looking “presentable,” her obsession (?) grew until she reached the point where she dressed all in white, including white pancake makeup on her African-American skin, and believed herself to be invisible. She is accompanied by the book’s narrator, the spirit of a 300-year-old African slave, who has “adopted” Victoria for the time being.
This story works in several different ways. It’s a must read for urban residents forced to watch the transformation of their neighborhood into something unrecognizable. It does a very good job at showing one family’s attempt to come to grips with the legacy of the Vietnam War. For those who like their fiction with a touch of strange, the author does a fine job with the Latin American magic realism. This novel is well worth the search, and well worth reading.