Sunday, May 20, 2012

Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

Redemption in IndigoRedemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Around the World: 20 of 52 (Barbados/Senegal)

Lord is a Caribbean author who weaves a Senegalese folk tale into a somewhat modern retelling. Not having read the original folktale, I'm not sure where one leaves off and another begins, but the story of Paama ("she could cook") and her foolish glutton husband was an easy and entertaining read.

I read this while I was in the Caribbean, because Karen Lord is from Barbados.  There is a great review of this book over on Worlds Without End, but it made me question my reading of the book.  The author is from Barbados, true, but I am almost certain the book is set in Senegal.  There is little mention of the ocean, which would normally play a prominent role in any Caribbean tale, and the people/food/place names have a much more Western Africa feeling to them.  

Karen Lord is on the nominee list for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, which will be selected during Chicon in early September.  I get to vote this year, since I have a supporting membership.  The only other nominee in this category that I've ready anything by (so far, because I will dutifully read my packet) is E. Lily Yu.

All of the quotations I collected are food related, and will probably come in handy when I bake something Senegalese.

"[Paama] could cook. An inadequate statement. Anyone can cook, but the true talent belongs to those who are capable of gently ensnaring with their delicacies, winning compliance with the mere suggestion that there might not be any goodies for a caller who persisted in prying. Life... could be sweet when there was a savoury stew gently bubbling on the stove, rice with a hint of jasmine steaming in the pot, and honey cakes browning in the oven. It almost cured Semwe's stoically silent worry, Tasi's guilty fretting, and Neila's bitter sighs."

At one point, she decides to make millet dumplings and grinds the millet as she sings this call-and-response song:
"Beat him down, beat him down
then we can hold his wake
Maize for porridge, barley for beer
Millet for dumpling and cake...."

"I have heard tales of how magnificently she can cook. I could relate for you a description of a morsel of her honey-almond cake, a delicacy which is light enough to melt on the tip of the tongue and yet it lingers on the palate with its subtle flavours long into the dream-filled reaches of the night. I could sing the praises, secondhand, alas, of her traveller's soup, a concoction of smoothly blended and balanced vegetables and herbs guaranteed to put heart and strength back into the bones of the weariest voyager.... I have just this moment recalled a certain jar that sits in her kitchen, filled with dried fruit steeping in spice spirit, red wine, cinnamon, and nutmeg, patiently awaiting that day months or even years hence when it will be baked into a festival cake that will turn the head of the most seasonal toper."

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