by Du Bose Heyward. New York: Doubleday, Doran & Co. 1929. 12mo. 311 pp. $2.50
AMERICAN literature is fortunate in the fact that Southern writers of the type of Julia Peterkin, Stribling, the author of Birthgirgt. and, most especially. Du Bose Heyward, have at last shown us the negro, not as a minstrel show or a comic strip, but as he is, individual and human, tragic, humorous, appealing; suffering and rejoicing even as other human beings, but also with a response to life peculiarly his own.
Mr. Heyward did this unforgettably in Porgy; he has done it again in this his latest book, Mamba’s Daughters. Beginning with Porgy and his Hess, and now continuing with Mamba, Hagar, and Lissa, he has passed before the reader’s imagination human beings, sometimes happy children, at other times heart-rending and inscrutable: members of a race marching, it is true, out of the jungle, but pressing forward on their dark silenl feet to a consummation winch is not yet, but which is destined to give them their own espcial place in the American
In this book the author has chosen a larger canvas than that of Porgy. and has twisted with the dark thread of narrative a white one as well, but in spite of the presence of the various white characters and their episodes it is the black people and not the white who hold the reader’s absorbed attention, and the story is truly, as the title proclaims, the story of Mamba and her daughters, Their theme is that of sacrifice for a vision, a vision grasped clearly by the astute old mind of the grandmother, Mamba, seen less clearly, but with supreme devotion, by the great, groping child-woman, Hagar, and finally carried to its consummation for the whole race in the person of the granddaughter, Lissa, It will be a callous reader indeed who is not moved by the passionate devotion of the two older women — especially Hagar — to the younger one, their treasure of loveliness. There are other interests in the book, especially the development of the white boy Saint. Wentworth, but its unique value and beauty lie in the characterization and contrasts of the three negro women, together with the way in which each one makes a complete offering of herself — each in her own peculiar manner — to the vision held in common. At the end one lays the book aside with a sigh of gratitude for the inherent greatness of humanity, for a deeply moving work of art, and for a writer among us with the gifts in supreme measure of pity, humor, and understanding.