They Tell Me of a Home
By Daniel Black
(St. Martin's Griffin, Paperback, 9780312362836, 352pp.)
Publication Date: November 28, 2006
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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Twenty-eight-year-old protagonist Tommy Lee Tyson steps off the Greyhound bus in his hometown of Swamp Creek, Arkansas--a place he left when he was eighteen, vowing never to return. Yet fate and a Ph.D. in black studies force him back to his rural origins as he seeks to understand himself and the black community that produced him. A cold, nonchalant father and an emotionally indifferent mother make his return, after a ten-year hiatus, practically unbearable, and the discovery of his baby sister's death and her burial in the backyard almost consumes him. His mother watches his agony when he discovers his sister's tombstone, but neither she nor other family members is willing to disclose the secret of her death. Only after being prodded incessantly does his older brother, Willie James, relent and provide Tommy Lee with enough knowledge to figure out exactly what happened and why. Meanwhile, Tommy's seventy-year-old teacher--lying on her deathbed--asks him to remain in Swamp Creek and assume her position as the headmaster of the one-room schoolhouse. He refuses vehemently and she dies having bequeathed him her five thousand-book collection in the hopes that he will change his mind. Over the course of a one-week visit, riddled with tension, heartache, and revelation, Tommy Lee Tyson discovers truths about his family, his community, and his undeniable connection to rural Southern black folk and their ways.
Daniel Omotosho Black is a native of Kansas City, Kansas, yet spent the majority of his childhood years in Blackwell, Arkansas. He was granted a full scholarship to Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia, where he majored in English. He was awarded the Oxford Modern British Studies scholarship and studied abroad at Oxford University, Oxford, England. Upon graduation from Clark College (magma cum laude in 1988), he was granted a full graduate fellowship to Temple University in pursuit of a Ph.D. in African American Studies. Completing this phase of his academic career in 1993, with Sonia Sanchez as one of his dissertation advisers, Dr. Black returned to his alma mater in order to help establish the tradition of top-notch scholars who publish and remain at historically black institutions. As a tenured associate professor, he now aims to provide an example to young African Americans of the importance of self-knowledge and communal commitment.
Omotosho, as he prefers to be called, is the founder of the Nzinga-Ndugu rites of passage (or initiation) society--a group whose focus is instilling principle and character in the lives of African-American youth. He is currently at work on his next novel.
"The brilliantly told lesson we learn in reading Daniel Black's thrilling literary debut is that the power of unspoken love can carry us through life and that resentment, hate, and anger do not ultimately triumph over the will to embrace family, no matter how flawed. They Tell Me of a Home is laced with folkloric humor, mystery, and jaw-dropping surprises that prove that home may not be where the heart is, but it is surely where we must journey to know our true selves. Daniel Black wields a powerful pen, a sharp eye, and muscular prose in giving us a memorable, even haunting story of the ties that bind."
--Michael Eric Dyson
"They Tell Me of a Home is a wonderful novel! There is skill. Grace. Humor. Joy. In the writing. In the telling. I saw, heard, history and herstory, and I saw how important this book is for our community. Welcome, my brother, to the telling of our communal home." --Sonia Sanchez
"I laughed, cried, prayed, sang, mourned, rejoiced…. I lived in the pages of They Tell Me of a Home. If ever we needed to chart our way Home, this is about as close as we'll ever get. Every traveler will hold fast to this home-going road map! Daniel Omotosho Black has penned a fiction that pierces almost every portal to what is real, reminding us that fine distinctions are not only blurred; we begin to ask why we pretend there is any difference between what we know is real and imagine isn't. Mr. Black has written life's great parable! Go Home…and find yourself along the way." --Jeffrey Lynn Woodyard