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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

March 31, 1991|Alex Raksin

WHY BLACK PEOPLE TEND TO SHOUT: Cold Fact and Wry Views From a Black Man's World by Ralph Wiley (Carol Publishing: $15.95; 200 pp.). It is not easy to express how it feels to be a black man in the '90s: You see the pain of your brothers in the inner city, yet there are no longer any easy targets to attack in society and there is little gained by criticizing your own community. Sports Illustrated writer Ralph Wiley is one of the few who have been able to hedge this dilemma by finding just the right tone. As in the following answer to his book's title, he skillfully marshals his anger into prose which achieves power through understatement: "You tend to shout . . . when a sweet grandmotherly sort has to tell you how black people once were chained in iron masks in the canebrake to keep them from eating cane while they harvested it . . . when you hear that grandmotherly voice and realize she was a girl who might have been your girl, and someone caused this pain on her lips, and nobody did anything about it but keep living." Wiley sometimes succumbs to a blinding cynicism, implying, for instance, that novelist Toni Morrison would have won the National Book Award if only she, like writer Alice Walker, had included stereotypical portrayals of "abusive (black) men who beat their own daughters." Yet this is but a slight flutter in a bold new voice.

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