Growing up in rural Arkansas, young Rashod Ollison turned to music to make sense of his life. The dysfunction, sadness, and steely resilience of his family and neighbors was reflected in the R&B songs that played on 45s in smoky rooms. Read more...
Growing up in rural Arkansas, young Rashod Ollison turned to music to make sense of his life. The dysfunction, sadness, and steely resilience of his family and neighbors was reflected in the R&B songs that played on 45s in smoky rooms.
Steeped in the sounds, the smells, the salty language of rural Arkansas in the 1980s, "Soul Serenade" is the memoir of a pop music critic whose love for soul music was fostered by his father, Raymond. Drafted into the Vietnam War as a teenager, Raymond returned a changed man, dead on the inside. After his parents volatile marriage ended in divorce, Rashod was haunted by the memory of his itinerant father and his mama s long forgotten sunshine smile. For six-year-old Rashod, his father s record collection the music of Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, Al Green, and others provided solace, coherence, and escape.
Moving nine times during his childhood, Rashod constantly adjusted to new schools and homes with his two sisters, Dusa and Reagan, and his mother, Dianne. Resilient and tough, while also being distant and punitive, she worked multiple jobs, striving to make ends wave at each other if they couldn t meet. He spent time with his acerbic mother s mother, Mama Teacake, and her family s living-out-loud ways, which clashed with his father s family religious, discreet, and appropriate where Rashod gravitated to Big Mama and Paw Paw, his father s parents.
Becoming aware of his same-sex attraction, Rashod felt further isolated and alone but was encouraged by mentors in the community who fostered his intelligence and talent. He became transformed through discovering the writing of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni, and other literary greats, and these books, along with the soulful sounds of the 1970s and 80s, enabled him to thrive in spite of the instability and harshness of his childhood.
In textured and evocative language, and peppered with unexpected humor, "Soul Serenade" is an original and captivating coming-of-age story set to an original beat."
- ISBN-13: 9780807057520
- ISBN-10: 0807057525
- Publisher: Beacon Press
- Publish Date: January 2016
- Page Count: 240
- Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-12-07
- Reviewer: Staff
In this soulful memoir, pop music critic Ollison (who writes for the Dallas Morning News and Jet) testifies to the powerful ways that music provides the soundtrack underneath the harmony and discord of his life. Raymind Ollisons father introduces his son to the music of Millie Jackson, Al Green, and Betty Wright as theyre visiting one of the fathers lovers. Looking back on those early years, Ollison recognizes that much of the down-home soul he heard during those years reflected his parents tumultuous marriage, with Aretha Franklins music grounding his mother during his parents divorce. Soul music guides Ollison through the many crises in his life; when hes eight, he imagines that Michael Jackson will one day come and whisk him away from his family problems. Hes a shy child and taunted by his schoolmates, but his teacher recognizes Ollisons potential and introduces him to Langston Hughess poetry; from that moment, a door had been blown open, and his imagination begins to expand and grow. Through the hurt and sorrow of a broken family, and a difficult childhood, Ollison recalls that music remained his cocoon, the place where he found the most coherence and delicious engagement. Ollisons moving memoir captures and colorfully reveals the ways that music can soothe the pain. (Jan.)