Da Queen A'Sleep: A Story of Waking and Sleeping in New Orleans A Story of Waking and Sleeping in New Orleans (Paperback)
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|A wake. A wake upon the river rolls. It bubbles and gurgles and carefully unfolds from the barnacled belly of a passing ship. It reaches its rings around the bend of this crescent-shaped bowl below sea level, stretching from ship to shore. It curls and then breaks onto the bank of this city without cares and pushes a black bottle into the hands of the queen of this sleep... Thus begins this story set by Mark Ballard Baker in New Orleans around the week leading up to Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday, the day after. The mythic rituals of New Orleans men and women, black and white, young and old, poor and rich are focal point of this novel which holds a faith-like sense of awe for the inexplicable. |
There is a host of characters that carry this story to its climax at the bank of the Mississippi: Big Chief George Jackson, who in the African tradition of Anansi, is a weaver of dreams. He spends all his free time "sewin' an' sewin' his new suit to lead his Mardi Gras Indian tribe, the Golden Levee Stompers. Along the way, he helps shepherd young Andre into a better understanding of his vision by the muddy waters of a young queen in silver-petal shoes. This is Regina whose feet are "shushing" their way to the riverbank. Eugene, her brother, an astronomy aficionado, is developing his own Theory of Relatives and counting all the numbers around him. He uses a homemade telescope to follow two shooting stars called the Tears of Mary and ultimately to understand more clearly the Mardi Gras-cycle of nature, life and ritual that encompass this story. These and other characters help the reader to awaken to a new sense of self, one that is only found deep within.
Da Queen A'Sleep is a magical storyof awakenings by the river, in the tradition of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera, but set to the tune of Mardi Gras Indian chants and Dixieland jazz clarinets snaking through the streets. Its mantric phrases and biblical imagery of waters and renewal bring rivulets of rich meaning with one overriding message: Beauty has a power to instill deep awakenings in the human heart.