A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom by Harmony Holiday (Paperback)
The CLA hosted Harmony Holiday's reading and signing for A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom on November 7, 2020.
Championing the tenderest of homicidal tendencies, a penchant for mercy killings and redemptive rites of passage, A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom is exactly what it announces it is, a book as dynamic and eternal event wherein a feminine voice leads her band of improvisers in a procession of joyous interrogation and forgiveness. This ritural is simultaneously a purging of any cowardly impulses in the speaker and in the culture she addresses and speaks as, and a releasing or banishing of unfit archetypes, readying the landscape for fresh forces by torching the weakest links in the prevailing mythos.
This book looks at the current state of the double and triple consciousness blackness in the West demands and situates its varied states and registers as chorus, as music, and call and response. In this way the book performs and reinvents a ritual, the Jazz Funeral, while offering a new perspective on letting go and rebirth cycles, a new path from bereavement to reprieve. Self-actualization is not only inevitable but fun in the context of A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom. We learn how he got over, how she got over, how a song of innocence turns into a mandate for the total renewal of the souls of black folk, and therefore of everyone— and we are given a songbook that assists in the releasing modes of existence we have outgrown, and let’s us enjoy the process.
Harmony Holiday is the author of Negro League Baseball (winner of the Motherwell Prize), Go Find Your Father/A Famous Blues, and most recently Hollywood Forever. She is the founder of Mythscience, an arts collective devoted to cross-disciplinary work that helps artists re-engage with their bodies and the physical world, and the Afrosonics archive of jazz and every day diaspora poetics. She worked on SOS, the selected poems of Amiri Baraka, transcribing all of his poetry recorded with jazz that had yet to be released in print and exists mostly on out-of-print records. Harmony studied rhetoric and at UC Berkeley and taught for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. She received her MFA from Columbia University and has been awarded a Ruth Lilly Fellowship and a NYFA fellowship. She is currently working on a biography of jazz singer Abbey Lincoln.