Julia (Mood) Peterkin CHARLES McD. PUCKETTE - Essay

CHARLES McD. PUCKETTE

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In many respects [Black April], Mrs. Peterkin's second published volume of fiction dealing with the negroes in the South, must stand as the most genuinely successful attempt yet made to capture the soul of these people. This book is put down with the feeling that one stands nearer to truth than one has stood before, in a field of fiction the surface of which has been often scratched, and the rich depths seldom upturned.

Mrs. Peterkin makes one singularly happy stroke. There are no white people in this book. From first to last it is the story of the negroes' lives in relation to each other. That is quite a different thing from negro life in its relation to another race, or even with the presence of white people and the existing social system as a background constantly present. It is a device which assists in Mrs. Peterkin's search for truth. Nor does she contrive this setting for her story mechanically. The black people of her pages are the hands on an isolated South Carolina plantation on the coast, visited by its owners only in the shooting season. April, the foreman, is a negro; and though the "big house" is there, the story is of the plantation quarters, a community of the black people, indeed isolated….

Mrs. Peterkin's rich store of understanding knowledge of the negro shows itself on every page. But this insight is not more remarkable than the honest art with which she tells her story. It is the reality of simple truth. One is not conscious of the art, nor of the writer. The story flows from life itself, and not from one to be observed observing life. The negro's superstitions, morals, humor, mind, customs are what they are. Mrs. Peterkin throws them into no relief against anything or anyone else. Other fiction of negro life seems false in the light of Mrs. Peterkin's achievement.

Charles McD. Puckeite, "On a Carolina Plantation," in The Saturday Review of Literature, Vol. III, No. 34, March 19, 1927, p. 660.