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  • kjoannerixon

Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good

"Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good" by LaShawn M. Wanak is extremely relevant to my interests in every way, and I thought it kicked ass. It's got everything: subversive artists, alternate history, creepy government agencies, disappointing white men, empathy as a superpower, black women whose fancy heels dent the hoods of cop cars. Music, everywhere.

It does start a little slow, and I wish there was maybe a little tiny bit more Chicago flavor in the early parts of the story in order to make that slow start feel a little more worth it. That's my only criticism though, and honestly I love a long-short story and am not really even complaining about the pacing.

Some things I loved: the delightful contrast between Rosetta and Minnie; the blues clubs full of smoke and assholes; the love of music and the way I felt the urge to sing in my mouth as I read; the setting in a segregated America at war in late WWII; the weirdly identifiable government-agency-ness of the creepy government agency; the unique and horrific magical elements; the shout outs (and maybe a little subtle shade) for a whole host of 30s era musicians; the extremely subtle, maybe-I'm-imagining-it moment where a young butch mixed-race lesbian has a very Captain America scene; church music and the queer-ass blues as two sides of the same coin!

I mean, damn. I'm not even going to make a list of things I didn't like, because there is no such list. Someone should make this story into a movie. Here's a video of Sister Rosetta Tharpe:

At about 15,000 words, SRTAMMSTSDG a nice length for a novelette. I read it on Apex, but it originally appeared in FIYAH, so like, hurray for getting paid twice and also for demographic-specific literary magazines. This story is quite good, so I don't mean to say that it would never have seen the light of day were it not for FIYAH, but it's an awkward length and a lot of the emotional hook comes from being invested in the music, so. You know. I'm glad FIYAH exists.



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