It’s often said that when we have children, we don’t raise them for ourselves but for them. When the time comes for the kids to leave the nest and build their own lives, we must let them go for their sakes and our own. I should know, I’ve been repeating that tenet to myself for years until I had no choice but to believe it and allow my oldest son to fly off on his own.

Focus now on Alice Randall’s heroine Windsor Armstrong, a determined and headstrong black American woman in her mid-30’s and professor of Russian literature. Windsor was raped by her mother’s white boss just as she was starting university. She nevertheless went through Harvard and raised her child alone, a boy whom she named Pushkin X after the celebrated Russian poet of African descendence who was unluckily killed in a duel over an adulterous wife.

Windsor has good reason to be proud of herself and of her son. She is a tenured professor and Pushkin is an accomplished athlete playing major league football and earning an income to match. Yet she cannot be happy. Windsor can’t get over the fact that Pushkin has chosen sports over scholarship. For this proud mother,  that is the ordinary sorts of a stereotype black American male; and worse, her son wants to marry a white Russian lap dancer/stripper who happens to be the love of his life. How Windsor would have liked Pushkin to follow in her footsteps, or the path of W.E.B. Dubois, the famous writer and first black PhD graduate from Harvard. Dubois himself would never have married outside of his race, much less to a lap dancer. As for Pushkin himself, all he wants is for his mother to be happy and marry the girl he loves and learn about his father.

So what is there to do? For her part, Windsor nags. And whines and rants and rails and ruminates about the bitter past, the tenuous present and the bleak future. Nothing escapes her musings as she spews forth angst and venom, exposes the deep layers of scar tissue that span her Detroit childhood, her gangster father and self-centered mother, rape and racism, and the difficulty of being a good parent. Readers get it all thrust upon us, Windsor’s tireless 288-page tirade.

I never made it to the end. Windsor’s diatribe wearied me. It had taken me too long to earn a spot of serenity in my life and now that I have it I refuse to take on someone else’s bitterness and bile. So I skipped ahead and gave Pushkin my blessing to marry the girl of his dreams and wished him well in his football career. So what if the boy wants to be just another ordinary American male? If he is happy in his life, then I will be happy too. Elitist poetry and literature be damned.

Among her other published works, Alice Randall wrote a highly appraised novel called  “The Wind Done Gone,” a parody of “Gone With The Wind”.

Pushkin and the Queen of Spades
by Alice Randall
288 pages

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