Reading with Local Author Mary Slechta -Mulberry Street Stories

October 23, 2023 - 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM

Join Mary Slechta for a reading from her new book Mulberry Street Stories published by Four Way Books. Books will be available for purchase.

In this electric collection, Mary Slechta brings magical realism and U.S. history to bear on the community of Mulberry Street— an African-American neighborhood with a disputed past. Is this enclave the result of white flight, a tenuous foothold for Southern transplants, or a sliver of the world that spun off during creation, once ruled by a god named Mr. Washington? Variously featuring the area’s residents, Mulberry Street Stories uphold the perseverance of hope despite intergenerational trauma and demonstrate the interconnection of human lives throughout time. Slechta’s characters have seen it all, from the persistent mechanisms of systemic racism—forced migration, redlining, gentrification, and more—to the fantastical—children at danger of falling off a flat world; a vampire posing as Henry Box Brown; and a husband tasked with building a supernatural maze to trap the “somethin,” the faceless oppression that has long plagued his family and now threatens his wife.

In one exemplary story, Slechta writes an ode to Toni Morrison, honoring her project to elevate the untold. The protagonist, Marjorie, a griot once charged with remembering things exactly as they happened but now suffering from Alzheimer’s, wanders away during a fugue. Drawn in by a taproom’s enchanting music, she begins orating to strangers, captivating the bartender and unknown patrons, one of whom rests his hand on her limb “like a penny on the arm of a record player”—the touch that keeps the disjointed tales together.

“Mary Slechta fills her stories with houses — both longed-for and haunted — and this collection delivers a compelling mix of place and imagination. The swimming pools, vegetable gardens, and street corners are populated with characters whose voices ring true. The stories of Mulberry Street first create a familiarity, then mix that feeling with surprise and anticipation. This evocative debut takes you there with stories that linger after an absorbing read.” —Ravi Howard

“Mulberry Street is a place of history, legend, and magic — a landscape where bellies talk and wishes are granted and ladies disappear into sidewalk cracks and hope ultimately blooms in the heaviest of hearts. Mary Slechta’s astounding collection follows in the footsteps of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio and Maxine Clair’s Rattlebone, viewing the stories of Black people’s suffering and resilience through its own magical lens. Wildly inventive and engaging, Mulberry Street offers an illuminating vision of a Black past, present and future. A dazzling must-read!”  —Carolyn Ferrell, Judge for the 2021 Kimbilio National Fiction Prize and Author of Dear Miss Metropolitan: A Novel