Rosa Guy Glendy Culligan - Essay

Glendy Culligan

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Sincerity, compassion, and the all too evident authenticity of her material offset the merely routine technical competence of [Bird At My Window by Rosa Guy] who has survived the indignities of growing up in Harlem without the crippling effects of anger.

Her hero, Wade Williams, has all the reasons for rage that have been chronicled by James Baldwin but none of the saving techniques for putting them to use.

The reader first meets Wade in the psychopathic ward of a New York City hospital, where he has been committed after beating his sister Faith during a drunken brawl that he can't remember. Unfolding bleakly backward as well as forward in time, the novel explores the mystery of Wade's brutality toward the only person he trusts. The frustrations of the childhood that he and Faith shared, leading so inevitably to the sterile violence of maturity, are detailed with a precision all the more painful for the author's lack of rhetorical pyrotechnics.

Her final indictment does, however, contain an element of surprise when it points the finger of blame not only at the white exploiters but at failure of value judgment within the Negro culture. Like novelist William Kelley, Miss Guy suggests that even in a world where the whites are proven villains, Negroes can never be heroes so long as they think of themselves as puppets.

Glendy Culligan, "Seeds for Thought." in Book Week—New York Herald Tribune (© 1966, The Washington Post), January 9, 1966, p. 16.