Post Your Opinion
A Review of: GideonĘs Blues
by Lia Marie Talia

George Boyd's Gideon's Blues is an evocative, powerful, two-act tragedy about a family and community wrestling with racism and trying to overcome compromised circumstances. The play opens with Momma-Louise, the family matriarch and widowed mother of Gideon, singing the blues. Alone on stage, she speaks to her late husband Poppy, trying to understand why she has incurred the wrath of the Lawd Jesus and lost her only son. The rest of the play is an extended flashback that chronicles the last weeks of Gideon's life.
As a university-educated black man with a bright, attractive wife and two children, Gideon works as a janitor to keep his family on a "Spam budget." He has applied for a job as a loans officer at a bank, but Momma-Lou's frame narrative reminds us "how much stamina and persistence a black person need to even apply for a job" in their town. She recounts how Gideon was reduced to tears that day because the only thing the bank manager wanted to know about him was whether he was a member of the Olympic boxing team. Demoralized and desperate, Gideon gets involved with Seve, his brother-in-law, a hustler who needs Gideon's credibility to shore up his drug-running enterprise. Brought into the drug-lord Grebanier's empire, Gideon finds it impossible to resist the quick-cash, flashy cars, and the instant prestige they bring. Not surprisingly, this fantasy existence is short-lived. His fall from grace is accelerated through Act II, when Baye, a streetwalker and Seve's sometimes-girlfriend, tells Gideon's wife, Cherlene, about the source of his bounty. An anti-drug advocate, Cherlene condemns Gideon with heartbreaking passion. However, it is Momma-Lou, with even greater despair, who finally stops Gideon short. Terrified of the influence of Grebanier, whom she sees as "an agitatin' devil - a Shango," Momma-Lou makes a terrible sacrifice. The play ends as it began, with Momma-Lou again singing the blues, a tribute to Gideon and a dirge for the soul that she believes he lost and that she had to save.
Gideon's Blues evokes echoes of Othello. Both protagonists are pitted against a racist society that rewards their enterprise and intelligence, yet restricts their abilities to achieve true equality. Yet, unlike the Bard's precedent, wherein Othello was entirely isolated from a community, Boyd's play is about how a black community can redress the ill-effects of internalized racism by administering its own justice and resisting imposed economic marginalization through vigilance and advocacy. The play is also a potent example of how desperate circumstances can necessitate the making of an excruciatingly hard choice.

Home First Novel Award Past Winners Subscription Back Issues Timescroll Advertizing Rates
Amazon.ca/Books in Canada Bestsellers List Books in Issue Books in Department About Us