Poet Lucille Clifton tells us about the life of an African-American family through slavery and hard times and beyond, of the death of her father and grandmother, but also of all the life and love and triumph that came before and remains even now. Reissue.
... slender but potent ... is not simply an account of Clifton’s father and the generations that preceded him, narrated upon her return to upstate New York for his funeral. It is also, metonymically, the account of all our histories, of the violence on which this nation is built, and of the individuals whose lives have long been unheralded and unrecorded ... Clifton’s prose has the distilled eloquence of poetry. She also has the gift of voices: she inhabits her father’s with an immediacy that makes him seem alive ... The music of her father’s words is both conversational and poetic, and Clifton’s particular achievement is to render the two as one, life as lyric, without prettifying or sentimentalizing.
By using an iconic American author as the anchor of her narrative, Clifton includes her own family’s history in the American canon ... The lives of the enslaved and their descendants are marked not only by hardship but celebration, heartbreak, quiet, the living. This cacophony of life is heard in Clifton’s memoir as the dead narrate and conjure their dead and bring to life an American family ... Clifton’s dead come alive, are present, and take a seat at the table ... her narrative humanizes the enslaved, her family. Her assemblage of voices of the enslaved and their descendants calls into question the language and standards for how we remember them ... a lean book, inviting readers to get through it even in one sitting. In five short chapters, Clifton includes historic family photos, usually at the beginning of each chapter. The cover art features dynamic black and white figures connected by lines. The figures seem to be in motion, which points to the liveliness of the history here retold.
Prize, the judges wrote that 'One always feels the looming humaneness around Lucille Clifton’s poems—it is a moral quality that some poets have and some don’t.' In Generations, readers will see that her prose—economical, matter-of-fact, and indelible—has that quality as well.