It is 1971. The fictional city of Bellport, Massachusetts, is in decline with an urban redevelopment project on the horizon expected to transform this dying factory town into a thriving economic center. This planned transformation has a profound effect on the residents who live in Bellport as their own personal transformations take place. Sydney Stallworth steps away from her fellowship and law studies at an elite university to support husband Malachi’s dream of opening a business in the heart of the black community of his hometown, Bellport.
For Omar Bassari, an immigrant from Senegal, Bellport is where he will establish his drumming career and the launching pad from which he will spread African culture across the world. Della Tolliver has built a fragile sanctuary in Bellport for herself, boyfriend Kwamé Rodriguez, and daughter Jasmine, a troubled child prone to nightmares and outbursts.
The Talking Drum explores intraracial, class, and cross-cultural tensions, along with the meaning of community and belonging. It examines the profound impact gentrification has on people in many neighborhoods and the way in which being uprooted affects the fabric of their families, friendships, and emotional well-being.
The Talking Drum, Lisa Braxton’s debut, is beautifully written (perhaps why it’s being released by a press more known for their poetry), and transports us to early 1970s Massachusetts, where a predominantly black neighborhood is about to fall victim to the twin forces of gentrification and institutional racism, with a strong dose of corruption on the side.
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