(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Some People, Some Other Place is a novel about the lives of people who are striving to find a better place, whether a better place in time, a better place to live, or a better place to be. Beginning around the turn of the twentieth century, the story opens with Eula and her husband attempting to bring their family to Chicago. They never make it there, but Eula shares the idea with her daughter Eula Lee, who also strives to take her family to Chicago and ends up only thirty miles away. Eula Lee continues the quest for Chicago, and her daughter Eula Too finally makes it to the city, albeit through tragic circumstances.

The ensuing story follows Eula Too’s life and development, and the novel’s other characters connect to one another through Eula Too’s life experiences. Narrated by the spirit of Eula Too’s unborn second child, Some People, Some Other Place provides insight into the hearts and minds of common folk—both good and bad. A theme unifying the book is the need for love in people’s lives and how the lack of love can drive people to engage in behaviors that are also both good and bad. The novel is set during the first half of the twentieth century and is interspersed with historical, social, and political commentaries on U.S. and world history. The narrator repeatedly interjects her own God-centered commentary upon events, as well as wise sayings meant to be helpful to the characters and readers.

At the age of...

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(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

“African Americans Select Their Favorite Books of the Twentieth Century.” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 26 (Winter, 1999/2000): 122. Cooper lists her own favorite works, providing insight into her aesthetic tastes as well as the influences upon her writing.

Bush, Vanessa. Review of Some People, Some Other Place, by J. California Cooper. Booklist 101, no. 3 (October 1, 2004): 307. Emphasizes Cooper’s skill at character development and her interest in universal themes.

Carroll, Denolyn. “Sometimes I Cry, Sometimes I Laugh: J. California Cooper Spins Tales of Common Folk Who Insist on Being Heard.” Black Issues Book Review 6, no. 6 (November/December, 2004): 52. A profile of the author and her work, focusing on recurrent themes.

Weaver, James. “Rehabilitative Storytelling: The Narrator-Narratee Relationship in J. California Cooper’s Family.” MELUS 30, no. 1 (Spring, 2005): 109. Interesting discussion of Cooper’s use of the narrative voice in an earlier work; suggestive of her later deployment of the narrator in Some People, Some Other Place.