No Marble Angels
Published by: Open Road Distribution
Release Date: March 29, 2016
“…full-bodied characters deserving of the rich emotional impact they evoke.”
—Jill McCorkle, New York Times Book Review
The characters in No Marble Angels struggle to close the distances between each other. Distances of race, sex, age. In their struggle they are often funny and poignant and surprised as they uncover in one another a mirror of themselves.
Many of these stories focus on encounters between blacks and whites; some are set in the American South during the civil rights era. The stories also focus on young people facing the deaths of those who have ordered their world.
In “Sissy Mamma’s Wig”, a fat black boy seeks revenge on a gossiping white neighbor only to risk losing the friend he values most.
In “Death Stalks a Building Once It Enters”, a pregnant young model, confronting the senility of her neighbor, faces her own fears of life and birth.
In “The Beginning of Violence”, a white reporter seeks to understand a black protester in a Nashville sit-in and instead contributes to a family tragedy.
“The author uncovers the vitality that imparts a glow to the most humdrum of lives…written with honesty and care and some, indeed with passion.”
“Her dialogue is sharp and accurate, drawing the reader close to the conflicts that produce full-bodied characters deserving of the rich emotional impact they evoke…the writer’s strengths—honesty, compassion and the ability to present such memorable scenes…”
—Jill McCorkle, The New York Times Book Review
“A valuable philosophical or political acquisition as well as a literary one…No Marble Angels questions the efficacy of any individual good deeds in a world already impossibly mired in corruption, ignorance, evil and hatred, and yet insists that for our own personal salvation these good deeds must be at least attempted…should be sought out and read.”
—Carolyn See, The Los Angeles Times
“The curious and I think, fine thing about [No Marble Angels] is that it reminds me of both I.B. Singer and Flannery O’Connor. I found no favorites here simply because I liked them all; each has its own world….a fine collection here, a cool view of the universe we inhabit….Compelling, I would say, because I didn’t want to get back to other things until I’d finished the book.”
—John A. Williams, The Man Who Cried I Am
“…the stories are linked with a single thread of compassionate understanding, and irreducible and unforgettable concern for blocked desire and often thwarted destiny.”
—R.V. Cassill, Dr. Cobb’s Game, Ed. Norton Anthology of Contemporary Fiction
“Readers casually picking up Joanne Leedom-Ackerman’s No Marble Angels might think they have stumbled into Anne Tyler’s world…Shannon and other characters are clearly drawn, the dialogue rings true, the images are sharp….small gems of clean, direct narrative…”
—The Baltimore Sun
“The author uncovers the vitality that imparts a glow to the most humdrum of lives…written with honesty and care and some, indeed, with passion.”
“With wonderfully wry humor, Leedom-Ackerman depicts the kind of good will that ends up causing trouble for others….a refined sense of craft is evident in all the stories.”
“These nine stories by Joanne Leedom-Ackerman (a former reporter for this newspaper) summon up the world of fact, but proceed to explore that world in the manner we have come to expect of serious good fiction.”
—The Christian Science Monitor
“An especially well deserved commendation to Joanne Leedom-Ackerman for superlative writing. A significant contribution for the library bookshelf that will stand the test of time.”
—The Midwest Book Review
“Joanne Leedom-Ackerman has all the qualifications to become an important American writer: intelligence, imagination, sensitivity, courage, honesty, love for people, and dedication to her craft….No Marble Angels should win her the recognition and encouragement she deserves.”
—The Los Angeles Reader
I grew up in Texas during the tumult of the civil rights movement. One of the books that had an impact on me was written by another Texan who literally changed the color of his skin in an attempt to get inside the experience of being black in the South during the time when racial covenants dictated where a person could get a drink of water or sit on the bus or go to the bathroom. John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me came out when I was in junior high school. I don’t remember if I read it then, or a few years later, but when I read it, the dilemma it posed both shaped and mirrored feelings and questions that were growing in me.
For a time I considered those questions simply as political questions. I spent much of my teens debating issues of civil rights (and the role of women) with family and friends. I located the antagonist outside myself, as some monolith which for lack of a better description had a handle at the top, a wing on the west and several large rivers running through it. And so I left the state of Texas.
As long as the antagonist was outside in politics, society, culture, I could separate myself from it. As a journalist in the East, I gathered facts and statistics and social opinions and searched for answers to issues, writing articles and series on segregation, desegregation, integration and what Boston called: racial balance.
All the while, however, other stories were building in me that I wanted to write, stories that couldn’t be so easily contained in facts and figures and social theories. I wouldn’t call these stories a novel because I didn’t know how they would end, but I knew the face of the emotion I wanted to address, the face of a character or two, and I knew two sentences. The first was, “The girl did not belong.” The second: “There are no marble angels in potter’s field.”
The stories in No Marble Angels were written over more than a decade. Several are drawn from longer works of fiction. The links among some of the stories arose from the start, but as I laid all the stories side by side I discovered other connections. More than half of the stories are set in the South during the time when blacks and whites peered at each other over the barriers of history and the laws that separated them.
This schism remains one of our national dramas, a drama that calls attention to the distance between individuals. It is this distance and the closing of the distance that has interested me over the years, whether it arises from race or sex or age, whether it arises in the U.S. or abroad or simply from the self looking into the mirror and seeing an image other than its own.
The night offered no sign of an emergency. Shannon Douglas lay sleeping under a white cotton canopy in front of an open window. Light broke apart on the carpet in her room, shifting as the moon shifted. Outside wisteria vines stirred in the shadows, and the room smelled of the sweet dense flower. She slept with the covers pulled back in a blue-flowered gown. One arm stretched above her head as though she were reaching in her sleep, but her body lay motionless. As the moon crossed the arc of the sky and began its descent, the phone beside her rang. Next door a dog barked. Between the sounds Shannon began and awakened from a dream.