Each year, The Commonwealth Club receives hundreds of books from California authors for award consideration. Our dedicated jury spends several months assessing each entry, narrowing down the many submitted works to a group of finalists and finally the medalists themselves.
A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom
(Birds, LLC, 2019)
By Harmony Holiday
"UNCLE TOM, AMERICA'S FAVORITE NEGRO, IS DEAD. Championing the tenderest of homicidal tendencies, a penchant for mercy killings and redemptive rites of passage, A JAZZ FUNERAL FOR UNCLE TOM is exactly what it announces it is, a book as dynamic and eternal event wherein a feminine voice leads her band of improvisers in a procession of joyous interrogation and forgiveness. This ritual is simultaneously a purging of any cowardly impulses in the speaker and in the culture she addresses and speaks as, and a releasing or banishing of unfit archetypes, readying the landscape for fresh forces by torching the weakest links in the prevailing mythos.
This book looks at the current state of the double and triple consciousness blackness in the West demands and situates its varied states and registers as chorus, as music, and call and response. In this way the book performs and reinvents a ritual, the Jazz Funeral, while offering a new perspective on letting go and rebirth cycles, a new path from bereavement to reprieve. Self-actualization is not only inevitable but fun in the context of A JAZZ FUNERAL FOR UNCLE TOM. We learn how he got over, how she got over, how a song of innocence turns into a mandate for the total renewal of the souls of black folk, and therefore of everyoneand we are given a songbook that assists in the releasing modes of existence we have outgrown, and lets us enjoy the process."