Chapter 8 Summary

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In the eighth chapter, “Tricknology,” Desdemona has begun to work for the Nation of Islam, which is led by Minister Fard. In the midst of the Great Depression, “Ford was closing factories, but at 3408 Hastings Street, Fard was open for business.” Desdemona has begun to get used to life in the temple and she is shocked to learn that the insides of the mavros’ (black peoples) hands are white. She converts an outhouse to store the silkworms, but the first group dies. Sister Wanda says that more are on the way and Desdemona likes that Minister Fard has trained his followers to be humble and modest.

Though she never sees Minister Fard directly, Desdemona does manage to overhear him speaking to his followers through the heating vents. According to Minister Fard, a “GOD-SCIENTIST” blew the earth into two pieces, thus creating the moon sixty trillion years ago. He goes on to explain that another God-scientist, Yucub, created white people by taking blacks and allowing only their most lightly skinned children to live. This process continues, until the black children become “PALER AND WEAKER, DILUTING HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS AND MORALITY, TURNING HIM INTO THE PATHS OF EVIL.” Yucub had created a race of “BLUE-EYED DEVILS.” Desdemona dismisses these ideas, but every day she returns to the heating vent to listen to Minister Fard.

While Desdemona is at work, Lefty begins to expand his business. As Desdemona becomes colder and colder towards Lefty, he begins to focus more on making money. He does not tell Desdemona, but during the day he sometimes closes the speakeasy, goes outside, and meets with Maurice Plantagent for a ride in his car. One day, the two pick up a woman, drive to an isolated place, and Lefty cleans the car. The woman, who is wearing a corset, poses for erotic photographs. Cal explains that Lefty got the idea when remembering his father’s catalogue of harem girls in lingerie. Thinking that inside a car, every man is the sultan of the road, Lefty began to ask women that come into the speakeasy whether they would like to make extra money. The side business allows Lefty to save money and makes a name for Plantagent. Even today, Cal is able to find Plantagent's photographs for sale.

Desdemona’s work comes to an end when one of Fard’s followers, Robert Harris, kills another man, James J. Smith. Cal explains that Harris might have heard one of Fard’s teachings, “ALL MUSLIMS WILL MURDER THE DEVIL BECAUSE THEY KNOW HE IS A SNAKE.” Without any whites nearby, Harris decides to kill another black man. Within three days, the police arrest Fard. The newspaper reports that at first, Fard claimed to be the “Supreme being on earth,” but then admitted to being a petty con man and agreed to leave Detroit if the charges are dropped. Desdemona loses her job when the Nation of Islam decides to invest in real estate rather than clothing.

Before she leaves for the last time, Desdemona meets Fard. He knows that she is married to Lefty and claims to be omniscient. He knows about the speakeasy and says that Lefty should change jobs soon. However, he then reveals his true identity: Jimmy Zizmo. When Desdemona asks why he hates white people, Jimmy replies, “Look at the evidence. This city. This country. Don’t you agree?” After assuring his followers that he is with them in spite of his leaving, Jimmy/Fard leaves in his Chrysler and is never seen in Detroit again. Some reports suggest that he went to London, that he is a Nazi agent, and that the FBI “were involved in his death.” Cal explains that no one knows for sure, and that Jimmy, who is revealed to be Cal’s maternal grandfather, “returned to the nowhere from which he’d come.”

Regardless, Desdemona, inspired in part by Fard’s teachings, has her Fallopian tubes tied.

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