79.6 F
Cruz Bay
Friday, May 27, 2022
HomeUncategorizedThe Bookworm: Give 'Soul Serenade' a Spin

The Bookworm: Give ‘Soul Serenade’ a Spin

“Soul Serenade” by Rashod Ollison

c.2016, Beacon Press              $25.95             230 pages

Vinyl is making a comeback. Those five words put a smile on a music aficionado’s face. A CD isn’t the same, they say. An MP3 is nowhere near as good.

 

Advertising (skip)
Advertising (skip)
Advertising (skip)
Advertising (skip)
Advertising (skip)
Advertising (skip)

You don’t get the right sound unless you’re spinning a record, so vinyl is coming back – but for people like Rashod Ollison in “Soul Serenade,” it never really left.

There was once a time when “Dusty” Ollison’s parents were happy.

He knows it’s true; he has evidence of it, in the form of a picture taken at the beginning of their marriage, which lasted 13 years. When they split, he was old enough to witness but too young to understand, having become inured to the fights, the cheating and the drinking at his home near Hot Springs, Arkansas.

After Ollison’s father fled his family – leaving Ollison’s mother with a ‘tween and two small children – he rarely returned. But he left a gift behind: stacks of vinyl.

Ollison says he remembers poking around music stores with his father, ogling covers, eager for approval of his taste in performers.

Chaka Khan, Bobby Womack, Stevie Wonder: Ollison recalls fascination with their record labels spinning on the turntable. Michael Jackson gave him comfort, Aretha was a mood barometer, they all taught him about grownup love through lyrics.

With his mother working two full-time jobs to keep food on the table, Ollison counted on music to anchor him. It was his means of escape as his oldest sister took her rage out on him, as his family moved repeatedly, as he was bullied in school for “actin’ like a woman.”

He denied feminine gestures and a tender heart, but by age 13, he could no longer ignore that he was gay.

School, by then, had joined music as a thing of refuge; Ollison excelled at his lessons, achieved good grades, made friends and expanded his playlist. As he grew, he also wondered about his father sometimes, but was largely indifferent, even as the man lay dying.

And then an aunt told Ollison something that made him change his tune.

“Soul Serenade” starts where many good memoirs do: with a faded picture of a time that barely seems possible. From there, we’re surprised by a death that promises to taint much of what’s to come, all wrapped in family lore.

But don’t get complacent. Ollison doesn’t allow any lingering. Soon enough, his story becomes angry yelling, a smack upside the head, profanity, TV-as-babysitter, fists and sore feet. We’re taken from neighborhood to neighborhood as the lights are shut off, the rent isn’t paid, and he’s taunted with words that his sister has to explain.

It’s chaos – but it’s also a darn good tale that it doesn’t dissolve into whining or poor-me-ing, testament to Ollison’s storytelling skills.

“Soul Serenade” is one of those books that sticks in your brain – not only for the suggested music, but because the memoir itself leaves its mark. And if that sounds like solid gold to you, then give this book a spin.

__

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Her self-syndicated book reviews appear in more than 260 newspapers.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.




Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.



STAY CONNECTED

20,771FansLike
4,726FollowersFollow

FROM FACEBOOK

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Load more