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Tag Archives: Kwame Dawes
Don’t just stand there, it’s #BookFaceFriday!
Another #BookFace throwback as we celebrate Black History Month. Bivouac, by Nebraska author Kwame Dawes, was originally posted as a dual #BookFaceFriday and Friday Reads review by NLC staff assistant Lynda Clause, and was featured at the 2019 Nebraska Book Festival.
“With expressive description and languid cadence, Dawes deftly constructs a background that serves as an amorphous setting for the complicated experience of a grieving son…With subtle yet lyrical description of internal struggles set against a foreign background, Bivouac serves as a deceptively symbolic read about the bleak and mirthless aspects of life and, subsequently, death.”
—The Daily Nebraskan
I’m reading Bivouac by Kwame Dawes, and I’m reminded that the 1980s were more than a station on your satellite radio. (And does your 80s station play Burning Spear as well as Musical Youth?) The novel is set in Jamaica, and politics are tumultuous throughout the region, and the activist father of our protagonist has died. It could be murder, but that murder might be medical malpractice, or it might have been as assassination.
Dawes uses a notable structural technique in telling the book from more than one viewpoint, and it feels modern as storytelling, extratextual—and the structural choices in form suggest to the reader that they consider the structural forms of the novel, and of family, and of political organization.
The formal structure only helps the reader become more intimate with the characters, and there is much to know. I’m thinking about the problem of guilt for a person who does not have good luck, but has still better luck than people close to them. I’m thinking about how a person can lose a progenitor but have that family live on as a symbol of something important to them—and how that can create tension between the love they feel for family, and the reality they have to continue to live in without that family present. You can’t resolve anything with someone who is gone, except by resolving with yourself. And everyone who is left behind has their own grief, and not all grief gets along.
Review by Lynda Clause, Nebraska Library Commission employee
Dawes, Kwame S. N. Bivouac: A Novel. , 2019. Print.
Meet the author at the upcoming Nebraska Book Festival September 7th in Lincoln.