I feel like I ought to remedy something. A while back, I posted a long rumination on Celeste Rita Baker’s “Name Calling,” a spec lit short story in Abyss & Apex that sparked a wide-ranging discussion on the use of dialect in fiction. If you’re interested in exploring the debate, I would recommend Googling other people’s blog posts and not reading my own, because I don’t think I did a particularly good job, and my thinking on the whole thing has evolved since then. (Hey, if the President’s beliefs can evolve, so can mine.)
What I most regret about my post, with all of its angst and hand-wringing, is the fact that I don’t think I fully expressed how strong Baker’s story is. The plot is tight, the fantasy elements are well realized and woven into the characters’ lives in the best tradition of magic realism, and the descriptions of the main character’s physical disintegration–indeed, the images of bodies and their frailties–are some of the most poignant and realistic I’ve ever seen.
Here’s the link to Baker’s story. Don’t read it because of the controversy surrounding it. Read it because it’s excellent.
(I should note that there are two versions of the story posted at this link. The first is edited so that the Caribbean patois is toned down somewhat; the second is the original version. I recommend, as others have, that you scroll down to the original and read it first. If you have difficulty with the language in places you can refer to the edited/clarified version, but the energy and spirit of the piece, at least for me, lies in the original.)