Southern Scribe
    our culture of storytelling

 

 Historical Fiction Review   

 

Chicken Dreaming Corn
By Roy Hoffman
University of Georgia Press, 2004
Hardcover, $24.95 (246 pages) 
ISBN: 0-8203-2668-2
 
 
 

Roy Hoffman's Chicken Dreaming Corn is part of a larger trend in publishing Southern fiction with multi-cultural influences. Set in Mobile, Alabama in the years between 1916 and 1946, the novel tells the timeless story of Morris and Miriam Kleinman's immigration to the Deep South from Romania via Brooklyn. Theirs is the great American Dream. They want to build a new life in a new town for themselves and their children by assimilation and acculturation. 

The novel opens with a celebration of Confederate Memorial Day along Upper Dauphin Street. Morris and his fellow businessmen are preparing their shops for what they hope will be a busy day. Although they are relative newcomers to the city having moved from Lebanon, Syria, Greece, Poland, Romania, and other exotic places, they understand the subtle implications of the holiday. While immigrants to New York in the early twentieth century may have found themselves in a safe harbor or melting pot, immigrants to the South often found themselves separated by language, faith, and family customs. When threatened, they know silence is the best response. 

The Kleinmans live differently. Their home is an apartment over their place of business. They speak both English and Yiddish. They worship on the Sabbath. And they soothe themselves after rough days with the mantra "Chicken dreaming corn."

Their children, growing up in the crucible their parents have sacrificed to create for them, aren't immune to childhood diseases or growing pains. They have ambitions and dreams of their own. They want educations and trips to New Orleans. They demand choices and freedoms Morris and Miriam never had.

Chicken Dreaming Corn confronts and questions what makes a place home with tenderness, humor, and respect. Hoffman has woven a tale filled with family secrets, family histories, second (and third) languages, and ancient faiths blending both Jewish and Southern influences. 

Roy Hoffman writes for The Mobile Register. His first novel, Almost Family, was published in 1983 and won the Lillian Smith award for Southern fiction. He's also published BACK HOME: Journeys Through Mobile, a collection of his nonfiction. Hoffman teaches in the Brief Residency MFA in Writing Program at Spalding University.

 

Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

2003, Southern Scribe Reviews, All Rights Reserved