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  1. Half-Blood Blues, by Esi Edugyan - The Globe and Mail
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  4. Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

Another mate is young Hiero Falk, a brilliant but emotionally fragile trumpet player who is black and German. A grim little room, more like a closet of ghosts than any joint for music, the cracked heaters lisping steam, empty bottles rolling all over the warped floor.

Half-Blood Blues, by Esi Edugyan - The Globe and Mail

The three men mostly lie low, fearful of being stopped on the street and asked for their identity papers. The story then shifts to Sid has grumpily agreed to fly to Berlin with Chip to take part in a documentary film festival honouring Hiero. Rumour has it that he died shortly after being released from an Austrian work camp. But Chip reports that Hiero is still alive, and living in Poland. So the trip to Europe is also an opportunity to reconnect with him and find out his story. When a street fight with Nazi thugs turned deadly, they are forced to flee.

Thomas Allen Publishers stepped in and released the first printing in August , several months behind schedule. The book follows a jazz bassist named Sidney "Sid" Griffiths and his bandmates , from the jazz scene in Berlin and Paris into the s, when Griffiths and his friends attempt to flee the impending peril that looms over Germany.

Half-Blood Blues

Racial hatred is in vogue, and a mixed-race German citizen dubbed by the Nazis with the epithet " Rhineland Bastard " like Hiero Falk can be arrested and simply disappear, lost to history. Juxtaposed against this is another narrative, set in Sid and Chip re-unite and travel back to Berlin for the screening of the documentary about Hiero Falk, and in which both Sid and Chip appear.

Watching their life on the big screen turns out to be somewhat different than they expected, and the mysterious letter that Chip has received leads them to another journey, across countries, time, and their own emotions. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Nevertheless, key themes of black Canadian literature surface throughout, including the international nature of racism, the unpredictable treatment of blacks, the conundrum of biracial identity and the anxiety-inducing issue of passing.

Sid is a light-skinned black from Baltimore whose Virginia relatives have decided to pass for white. In Berlin, however, Sid's olive complexion makes him more suspect than the band's blond, blue-eyed pianist, who is Jewish. Still, Sid's light skin guarantees him greater privilege than either Chip or Hiero, both dark.

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Edugyan shuffles the race cards to illustrate the dizzying implications of various permutations of shade, nationality and ethnicity. At the same time, she subtly implies that the poignancy of Chip's and Hiero's racial experience informs their superior musical gifts. The novel is narrated by Sid in a jazzy black vernacular full of bawdy wit and rough tenderness that may give some readers cause to quibble. Yet Edugyan's shaping of plot through voice and dialogue resembles a painter who models her subjects from whorls of colour.

At times, Sid's voice feels limiting, for he is a slightly naive, moderately talented musician, full of insecurities and petty jealousies. Sid comes to resent Hiero for his extravagant gifts and for the special bond the young man shares with Delilah. His pettiness turns malevolent. Edugyan's musically educated ear allows her to transpose notes into words and back again.

Listen, then, to Hiero's duet with Armstrong: Hiero, he just reaching out, seeking the shore …". Delilah finds them an ancient studio where they play take after glorious take. In a few days, Hiero would be captured by the Nazis. But "for that night at least," Sid recalls, "we was free.

Much of the power of this unforgettable novel comes from the way its racial themes echo.

Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

It is very difficult to perceive and articulate the twisted skein of emotion that is black experience — and yet that is just what Edugyan manages to do with this brilliantly conceived, gorgeously executed novel. It's a work that promises to lead black literature in a whole new direction.


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