The Talking Drum by Lisa Braxton Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Race relations, immigration, and the role government plays in our daily lives take center stage in author Lisa Braxton’s historical fiction novel “The Talking Drum”.


The Synopsis

Displacement/gentrification has been happening for generations, yet few novels have been written with the themes of gentrification, which makes this book unusual.

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, while trying to hold onto his marriage.

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.

Tensions rise as the demolition date moves closer, plans for gentrification are laid out, and the pace of suspicious fires picks up. The residents find themselves at odds with a political system manipulating their lives and question the future of their relationships.

The Talking Drum explores intra-racial, class, and cross-cultural tensions, along with the meaning of community and belonging.

The novel delves into 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 not only explores the immigrant experience, but how the immigrant/African American neighborhood interface leads to friction and tension, a theme also not explored much in current literature involving immigrants.

The book is a springboard to an important discussion on race and class differences, the treatment of immigrants, as well as the government’s relationship to society. 

The Review

There has never been a more relevant or prominent moment for a novel of this magnitude than now. Such a rich and powerful narrative takes center stage in this book, creating a tense and emotional atmosphere that many today can identify with. 

The characters are true standouts, as the author expertly creates relatable and memorable characters that do an amazing job of embodying the theme of immigration, race relations, and government roles as a whole. While a historical fiction and fiction setting, the message, and heart of the story shines brightly through and conveys the hardships that have come with trying to find common ground, find equality, and integrate it into everyone’s daily lives. 

Especially when readers are taken into an often overlooked subject like the tension that can arise in communities such as African American/Black neighborhoods amongst its citizens and immigrants settling into the area, and the need to find common ground and come together as a whole community in the face of great upheaval and tragedy. 

The Verdict

A well-read, highly engaging and richly drawn-out narrative, author Lisa Braxton’s “The Talking Drum” explores so much, from history and the culture of a group of people and the importance of remembering that culture, to the struggles for immigrants to make a new life for themselves and the hardships that come with intra-racial relationships as well. It’s a novel that speaks volumes in its message and theme and deserves to be read during these tumultuous times. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10


About the Author

Lisa Braxton is an Emmy-nominated former television journalist, an essayist, short story writer, and novelist. She is a fellow of the Kimbilio Fiction Writers Program and was a finalist in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Southern New Hampshire University, her M.S. in journalism from Northwestern University, and her B.A. in Mass Media from Hampton University. Her stories have been published in anthologies and literary journals. She lives in the Boston, Massachusetts area. 

Buy Link: Amazon; IndieBound; B&N 

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