Joyce Carol Thomas
A GATHERING OF FLOWERS
an anthology of short stories for young adults
 
  

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Gathered here are eleven new short stories written by authors from diverse cultural backgrounds. From rural Oklahoma to an East Coast neighborhood, from urban San Francisco to a Chicago Latino barrio, such varied and original writers as the distinguished Joyce Carol Thomas, Maxine Hong Kingston, Gary Soto, and Lois Lowry bring us a sampling of the rich colors and voices that make up today's America.
 
Here we meet a young Chicano family that places all its dreams for the future on a golden cockroach. Children on a Chippewa Indian Reservation carve a tribal trickster from a block of ice in the middle of July. And in Joyce Carol Thomas's spellbinding "Young Reverend Zelma Lee Moses," a young black woman with a gift for preaching decides to fly come Sunday at Perfect Peace Baptist Church.
 
These are stories of compassion and intolerance, of love and hope. Above all, A GATHERING OF FLOWERS offers a special promise of what it is to be young in America.
 
 
excerpts from Joyce Carol Thomas' "Young Reverend Zelma Lee Moses," included in the anthology A GATHERING OF FLOWERS:
 
page 118

Only one mover shook loose in the whole flock of them. And that was dimpled Daniel, an earth angel dressed in light and leaf green and smelling of musky sweet spring herbs, stepping all up and down and inside the gospel beat, a human drum.

It was just about time for Zelma to wind up the sermon and finish with the song "Lord, Just a Little Mercy's All I Need."

And she felt as if she hadn't done her job at all if she couldn't get ten sisters and several deacons moved from their sanctified seats.

The visiting choir voices behind her had sunk and their volume diminished. She was used to more call and response and certainly much more shouting.

"Why's this church so cold?" she asked.

Stopped in the middle of her sermon and asked it.

What she could not see behind her were the visiting choir members being carried off the stage one by one. The entire soprano section of the New Orleans New Baptist Church Youth Choir had danced until they fainted, until only one or two straggly alto voices were left.

The Sweet Earth congregation gazed so amazed at the rapture and the different shouting styles of the Louisiana choir that they settled back and, instead of joining in the commotion, sat transfixed on their chairs like they were in a downtown theater watching a big city show on tour.

page 133

On the third day, Zelma Lee Moses, looking a little down at the heel, stepped through Perfect Peace, paused and put on her long sanctified robe of invisible wings, picked up her guitar, mounted the steps to the pulpit, opened her mouth, and began to sing a crescendo passage in a higher voice with light wings glittering in the fire-singed notes, "Lord, just a little mercy's all I need."

And she looked at Daniel with a look that some folks claimed she got from talking to the devil for three days. But this was not true.

The look was all mixed up with angels, mockingbird flights, burnished butterflies, and tree-skimming kites.

After the service Daniel took her hand and held it longer than friendly.

When Zelma glanced up at the crucifix it seemed to her that Jesus, through a divine transformation, was winking through His pain. Or maybe it was just the effect of the morning sun kindling His expression, beaming only on those muscles of the mouth that brightened the corners of His lips.

As they left the church they walked under the crucifix over the doorway.

As if he too saw the same expression on the Christ, Daniel squeezed Zelma Lee's hand tighter. And she could feel electricity pulse back and forth from his fingers to hers.

  
Text © 1990 Joyce Carol Thomas. Cover © 1990 HarperCollins Publishers.
 
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