James McBride is my hero. An African American LITERARY author of somewhat popular note. A brother who is not plagiarizing Candace Bushnell and replacing the white girls with obese church ladies lookin' to score wid the pastor. Who isn't writing thug fables and calling it "the reality of the street" (Ha!). Whose lead character isn't a conflicted handsome, mysterious dude romancing female lawyers who look and act suspiciously like video hoes. Whose lead character isn't a conflicted handsome mysterious clown romancing MALE lawyers. His Song Yet Sung (buy it at the right) is a paeon to the Chesapeake, to the slaves who toiled, yearned and struck out for freedom at water's edge; of course I'll try to best him with Yella Patsy's Boys. His first foray into the historical fiction genre came a few years ago with Miracle at St. Anna. I offer this selection in honor of ALL vets and dead soldiers (except Confederates--why the hell should those redneck traitors count?) this Memorial Day.
The setting is Italy, WWII, 1944. The true event is the Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre: retreating German (call them German...stop with this "Nazi" shit) Waffen-SS Panzergrenadiers rounded up about 500 women, children and old folks--in retaliation for guerilla activity--and shot them, then burned them (many were just wounded so they were burned alive). The other element is the 92nd Infantry--a segregated combat unit which encompassed most of the old "Buffalo Soldier" infantry regiments. Led by incompetent and racist white officers, plagued by so-called "Greatest Generation" white boy GIs on the one hand, they must also deal with a desperate enemy hell bent on taking as many Americans with them to the bitter end (the Waffen-SS were the most fanatical German troops).
Here's where it gets interesting. McBride gives us a sweet yet dim witted black soldier (think Lenny from Of Mice and Men with a rifle and a tan) who befriends an orphan against the backdrop of this atrocity. Allegory's all there on many levels, including a symbolic device with a statue's head; pain, bravery, treachery, love, redemption...an miracles...ensue. And don't look for the usual "cross-section of society" stereotypes re: the dudes in the group of four black soldiers caught behind German lines. Read/re-read this book before Spike Lee's film comes out. McBride penned the screenplay but Spike's already up to his old bullshit braying and self-promo--given his pretty much needless attacks on Clint Eastwood for "Flags of Our Father/Letters of Iwo Jima" and Speilberg for "Saving Private Ryan". Interesting as Clint's ALWAYS been a thoughtful, artful director and even did the Charlie Parker biopic. Did you, Spike? Nah. So shut up. Speilberg did The Color Purple and yeah--Amistad. Did you, Spike? Nah. So shut up. Why not A Soldier's Story? Or any number of films and TV-movies of the week on blacks and WWII, blacks and any war (hey you can option Yella Patsy's Boys once it drops and show the freed slaves burning down the White House with the British in 1814 if you want--one of those patented moving shots of your on Dolley Madison realizing she gotta run before she's caught would be cool...). Going into the merits of his attacks on the WWII movies is silly as the attacks are silly; again I'm sure 99.99% of it is just his ego/personality, and I'm praying my hero Brother McBride tempers that stuff. Would he allow Hollywood succubus to steal his soul, a la Mariane Pearl and Brangelina in A Mighty Heart? Likely not. He's my hero, after all. Read and learn.