Rosa Guy Thomas L. Vince - Essay

Thomas L. Vince

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

When first encountered [in "Bird at My Window"], Wade Williams is recovering in the psychopathic ward of a New York hospital…. Unlike the bird at his window, thirty-eight-year-old Wade has never been free and, as the novel unfolds, one is given a stunning insight into the forces that hampered his freedom, discouraged his talent, and crushed his spirit….

All the frustrations of the Harlem Negro are sounded clearly through Wade's experiences. Family problems are foremost, especially those posed by the matriarchal system which is willing to settle for respectability alone; and which is deplored for what it can do to break a man. The inevitable racial clashes both in New York and in France where Wade is sent during World War II are movingly portrayed, and the perennial problems of sex, fundamentalism, and alcohol are carefully, but never sensationally, explored. What is achieved is a balanced portrait of a man who might have been, but who either wilfully missed his opportunities or was denied them by an unsympathetic society….

This is Rosa Guy's first novel, but considering the intensity and power it evokes, we can expect more from such promising talent. Her demonstrative skills in character portrayal and in the etching of crucial incidents are certain to keep the reader absorbed. Some of the language and a few of the scenes may upset the prudish, but there is none of the garish prurience or repetitious vulgarity so common in modern fiction. "Bird at My Window" may even become a commercial success; but, whatever its fate, it deserves critical attention for being, perhaps, the most significant novel about the Harlem Negro since James Baldwin's "Go Tell It on the Mountain."

Thomas L. Vince, in his review of "Bird at My Window," in Best Sellers (copyright 1966, by the University of Scranton), Vol. 25, No. 20, January 15, 1966, p. 403.