James McBride: 'Fiction Gives You Real Hope'

The stories in James McBride's latest book, Five Carat Soul, is a quirky collection: with characters ranging from a group of a group of middle school boys in a band called "The Five-Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band" (a song in itself), a insatiable toy collector who might or might not
cheat a poor family out of a valuable toy, and a young African American boy in the Civil War named Abraham Lincoln, it gives a colorful and varied view of American life and its people without falling into the usual simplifications. When a Chinese grocer who shoots a young black man assumed to be robbing his shop, the villains aren't who a reader might think they'd be.

For me, the highlight of my interview with him for the Washington Post involved an exchange about politics, which he says he tries to avoid. Fiction, he said, is a relief from politics.

"Just because you yell the loudest doesn’t mean you’re the smartest. It means you just yell the loudest.

Most of my characters: they don’t yell, they don’t scream. They don’t curse, by and large. They’re good people. And you know what? Good people don’t have to be boring. The really interesting parts of life are the parts we are not witness to. Because the man who decides to shake his neighbor’s hand, or help him cut the grass, they’re the true heroes. Only with disasters like the one in Houston are we able to see our humanity. So these stories give me the room to breathe. Fiction offers some relief from the drudgery of sitting on the third rail of race, where most of us sit or avoid. Fiction allows us to dream. Without dreams what do you have? Fiction gives you real hope."

No comments: