It has taken me some time to get a hold on this entry and the book I wish to tell you about Magic Street by Orson Scott Card. It actually mirrors my reading of the book. I started out slow, not really buying in to the somewhat normal world of Magic Street, knowing that this was a science fiction book by the author of Ender’s Game.
Then, I probably did something wrong. I read the acknowledgements section in the back of the book, where Orson Scott Card tells us how Magic Street came about. A friend that asked him, why he had not written a book with an African American protagonist. The result is Magic Street, which has an all-black character list and an all-black neighborhood. To me the environment and culture seems realistic, but truth be told, I unfortunately do not know.
The reason I dwell on this issue is that the neighborhood of Baldwin Heights is at the heart of this book. Baldwin Heights is a suburb to Los Angeles and very close to the premise: what would happen if magic seeped into Baldwin Heights through a drainpipe. I also mention the issue, because some of the characters in my opinion fit too well into my artificial perspective to such an extent that the characters are caricatural; there is the hard-working, no-nonsense nurse Miz Smitcher, lanky, free-roaming Mack Street, and a motorcycle-riding hoochie mama.
Magic Street is in great part the story of Mack Street, from his conception onwards. Mack Street is special because he was a foundling in the community of Baldwin Heights, who ends up staying with Miz Smitcher. Mack Street is in reality raised in the community, eating where he wants, and dreams cold dreams with his neighbors.
Community, family, and the feeling of belonging are all central themes in Mack Street. Mack’s family is Miz Smitcher, the nurse who reluctantly takes him in, and Ceese, the “older brother” who found Mack in a bag by the drainpipe. Ceese is perhaps the closest, Mack has to a father. There is also Word, who remembers Mack’s birth as the only one and therefore is out of the loop of normalcy in his family. The sense of belonging become even more evident as magical critters appear in the story, inspired by A Midsummer night’s dream. The untraditional family unit and its repercussions in the community is one of the reasons, I enjoyed Magic Street.