We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.


To tell the truth, I never cared one bit about Stella or her groove, to say nothing of how she got it back. But when an author like John Edgar Wideman comes out with a new book, I’m rushing to the nearest store to pick it up. While Wideman uses some real-life experiences as impetus for his writings, he is no slouch. Author of more than a half-dozen books of fiction and nonfiction, including Brothers and Keepers, Fever, Hiding Place, Fatheralong, Sent for You Yesterday, and Philadelphia Fire—the last two of which won the PEN/Faulkner Award—Wideman is to literature what Romare Bearden is to art, especially collage. For the past decade, Wideman has, in creative and passionate ways, pieced together books and stories that attempt to answer some of the more pressing questions about humanity, black urban living, the double edge of racism that leaves scars on both victim and perpetrator, and the things that separate siblings, sending one to jail and another to England as a Rhodes Scholar. Now comes The Cattle Killing, whose narrative Wideman stitches together with multiple voices that are at once lyrical, poetic, meditative, and strident. In monologues and via traditional plot development, he provides interior motivations for and understanding of love, racism, and the unquenchable thirst for freedom. At the core of Cattle Killing is the Xhosa’s ritual and suicidal killing of their herds in an attempt to resist European domination. It is an exquisite metaphor from which Wideman masterfully explores the destruction sweeping through America. Wideman reads from The Cattle Killing at 6 p.m. at Vertigo Books, 1337 Connecticut Ave. NW. FREE. (202) 429-9272. (Jonetta Rose Barras)