The Mending Time – A Novel
The Mending Time is an intergenerational story that traces two black families on the South Side of Chicago. The book takes an intricate look at the effects of historic discrimination, struggle, mi-gration and urban life on these African descended people. Its nugget culminates inside the story, imagination and resilience of the child whose birth joins these two families. The novel unfolds in four parts, according to West African ritual as de-scribed by Malidoma Some’. It offers readers a Sankofa experience in which to change and heal these cycles.
A Review of The Mending Time
The Mending Time, the wonderful debut novel from Meta Commerse, is fundamentally about the healing process. Like any good novel, it is centered on questions: How does healing happen, collectively and individually, physically and spiritually? Commerse recognizes that the most important questions cannot ever by fully answered. But part of the answer, one finds, is that we are healed when we realize that we are in this together, that our wounds bind us more than isolate us. Our individual struggles are not separate from the collective. Set over three generations on Chicago’s south side, the novel takes on the difficult subject of the abuse of women and children. Skillfully linking the abuse within the community to the broader abuse that the community as a whole faces, Commerse recognizes that the wounded men who often harm the women in their lives do so in part because of the failure of their society to give black men a voice. And she celebrates the strength of women who realize that, when they start talking about it, they are connected by their pain. The novel is structured, quite intentionally, in the four-fold pattern of an African healing ritual. This speaks to the importance of inter-generational participation in the healing process. A whole world is required to heal a single child; that is, the individual requires a community as well as the ancestors to become whole. The central character, Bea, a child who has faced horrible abuse, finds healing by connecting to older generations and to the healing traditions of her ancestors. Commerse is a writer who works to get to the marrow of issues and to stay there until the healing is done, and her writing brings with it a tremendous amount of depth and skill. Although she has relocated to Asheville, NC, she is from Chicago, and the work evokes a south side of days gone by, before communities were disrupted by the violence and mass-incarceration of the 80’s and the gentrification of today. This is not to say that segregated Chicago is idealized. This is a hard life, and its struggles come through. Healing, for a wounded little girl or a wounded people or a wounded species, also happens through storytelling. This is part of the power of a good novel, and part of the power of those in The Mending Time who find their voice. The one thing we fear –re-living our pain by telling the story — is that which heals us. And while the book begins by burying the bloody shirt of the man who saves a beaten woman, it concludes when the child is ritually freed to tell her story, no longer building psychological “walls” around her self.
Theodore Richards is a poet, writer and religious philosopher. He is the founder and executive director of The Chicago Wisdom Project and is the author of the poetry collection, Handprints on the Womb. Find out more at: http://chicagowisdomproject.org.
Good Reads Comments
“In The Mending Time, Meta Commerse leads the reader on a vivid trip back in time to the 1960s, to an often confusing world seen throught the eyes of an African American girl. Commerse beautifully handles the emotional and spiritual process of the characters surviving and healing from trauma, as individuals and as a community of women.”
“A powerful, spiritual book about family, race and the power of women. The character of 12-year-old B.J, will abide with you long after you finish it.”
Nkonsonkonson – “Chain Link”
unity and human relations
“I have read your novel. I would say reading The Mending Time was a mystical experience that addresses a timely and difficult topic in a powerful way. It is rich, the characters real, and the novel thought provoking.”
— Pastor Kevin Downer
“I had to read The Mending Time twice, and I couldn’t put it down either time!!! Reading this book helped me to realize why my mother told me to never talk about the things that happened in our house and family with people outside of our family, why we must keep our secrets. I loved the ending and wish that I could have a ceremony to let go of the ugly things that happened to me as I was growing up, that I was taught to keep secret. What a wonderful book for the little black girl inside of us. Thank you Meta Commerse!!”
“The Mending Time by Asheville-based practitioner of story medicine Meta Commerse reads like a classic. It is an unflinching look at a resilient family facing pain with courage and love. B. J., the young female protagonist, will steal your heart, then break it, then heal it. Do yourself a favor and snap up this book today.
Poems by Meta Commerse
Blues Doula invites you into Meta Commerse’s life. You enter a Black woman’s her-story: poems about everyday acts and thoughts that witness what make Black life and living painful and joyful…everywhere that Black women live. Most of all, these poems are Meta’s witnessing and documenting the transformation and healing of herself through individual and historical traumas, and the struggles to acknowledge how and why they are connected and continual.
In the end, Blues Doula is an exploration and revelation of what it means to take the journey towards living fully and free within oneself. It is a teaching, one that is offered to us as a gift of love.
Maria Hamilton Abegunde
Indiana University, Bloomington
“Blues Doula is fully in and of the spirit, moving through times’s garden, revealing the flowers, weeds and mammoth trees of our humanity.”
— Pamela Plummer, PhD, MSW, MPH
“When I read Meta’s art/work, I time travel. I hear music. I see people and places in a new light. The fact that she speaks poetic truth in times like these is reason to rejoice. Unwrap these gifts slowly and discover the poetic graace that she has prepared for us. Feel yourself shout in recognition on the inside while being nourished allthe way to the core of your soul.”
Touching Earth Mindfulness Learning Center