This is a wonderful, diverse, and extensive collection of short stories (and a few miscellany) based on the theme of Hope. Which is understandable, and in some ways mandated by the past year of Covid, racial injustice and tension, political divisiveness, conspiracy craziness, and simple mean-spiritedness that has permeated almost all levels of culture. Of course, there is another way to view the past year, and that is the unfettered creativity and triumph of the human spirit that emerged in front-line workers, parents, teachers, and a whole host of others. And this is where the Black-Eyed Peas Anthology is situated. On the positive side of the line. It is, quite simply, an antidote.
There are so many stories in this collection, and they are so diverse, that it’s impossible to touch on them all, and so the difficult choice of which to feature. And for me that becomes choosing a few of my favorites, and hoping others will dip in and taste the rest. There are tales of escape to other dimensions, fantastic road trips, the creation of new societies, and much more.
I loved “The Family Business” by Melissa Mead, a wonderfully tilted take on the Rapunzel fairy tale. While she is kept prisoner in the castle, Rapunzel’s hair is harvested yearly by her Mother Gothel. Only when a “prince” finally climbs her braids does the whole affair unravel, so to speak, freeing Rapunzel to look for love in all the right places – cabbage fields in this case.
Dave Smeds’ “The Eighth of December“ is my favorite story in the collection. The story of a reborn rock phenomenon explores the protagonist’s coming to grips with his younger self, one full of hope, optimism, and honesty. This is an extremely moving story that incorporates rock and roll history (some imagined), great characterization, and an ending that deserves many encores.
The final story I’ll mention is “Esther” by Fran Macilvey. “Esther” is a haunting story of a refugee from Africa who is fleeing marriage and its mandated clitorectomy. As she faces a hostile immigration inquisitor, the story demonstrates how some victories are tiny, yet remain victories none-the-less. This is a truly heart-rending piece.
And I could go on, and on.
Paul S. Piper