Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks
As racial tensions in the football team erupt, Gwendolyn Brooks is used as an example, by one of the characters in Friday Night Lights, of a great American writer who’s not a white male or Emily Dickinson. A surprising reference in such a mainstream series, maybe, but proof that one of the screenwriters thought she was a writer viewers should read. I’m certainly not going to dispute this as Maud Martha, Gwendolyn Brooks’ only novel which has just been reissued by Faber, is a superb addition to the Faber Essentials series. Comprising thirty-four chapters (or snapshots) of the life of Maud Martha Brown, a black working-class woman who grows up on the South Side of Chicago before and just after the Second World War, it captures in poetic prose both the profound and everyday moments of a life. Childhood, first loves, social life, first house, the birth of her daughter all of which lead up to the end of World War Two when, “…the sun was shining, and some people in the world had been left alive, and it was doubtful whether the ridiculousness of man would ever completely succeed in destroying the world.” At the end of the novel Maud Martha is in her thirties with the turbulent sixties and seventies looming (as an editor I would have practically demanded a part two) and one can’t help feeling that if, for instance, Eve Babitz or Joan Didion had written Maud Martha it would never have gone out of print. Totally recommended.
Maud Martha – Gwendolyn Brooks – publ. Faber - £8.99