Review: “Graverobbing Negress Seeks Employment”

[Editor’s note: this post was originally written in spring 2017, when FIYAH, a literary magazine of black speculative fiction, had just published its second issue. This post is blogger E. Young’s review of what she found in that second issue. LSQ is happy to note that FIYAH continues to publish on a quarterly basis and is in its second year.]

First, I want to mention how robust the issue is this time around. They’re getting bigger! We have a novel excerpt, an indie spotlight corner, some sweet merch (THAT COVER ART THO!), and a Spotify playlist going on so please check out the website. With that being said, of course we’re here for the stories and they are excellent but I wanted to single one out in particular because it…well, it vexed me!

“Graverobbing Negress Seeks Employment” by Eden Royce takes the theme of spilling tea, to me, in a few different directions. If you’re not up to date on your genteel slang, to spill tea is simply to gossip mightily or in some instances tell a cold, hard truth about something (usually someone). The literal tea element is here, of course, with the Life Everlasting tea which does…well, guess. Then there is the rumor or gossip element that chugs the meat of the plot forward. And then there’s the twist at the end that reveals a cold, hard truth that shakes the reader and Prosper to the core. I had about as many questions as she did, the biggest one being “WHY?”

Now of course, in stories and cinema we are used to asking ourselves why knowing damn well there is no real why, and here is pretty much the same. There’s no why to senseless violence against one’s own people under the cover of racism, and that freaked me out a bit. It freaked me out a bit but I also wished it could have been expanded out a bit. Not in the name of making a grand political statement or some deeper meaning, but the chill still felt a bit short. But at the same time I wouldn’t ask for a series or a longer novella or novel, because the impact is captured in the shortness of a single night and one (probably) last mission.

But in the end, this ended up becoming one of my favorite stories in the issue. The atmosphere was very Eve’s Bayou meets Candyman. And I’m sure you all know by know how hard I pop for American South lit that isn’t all ooga-booga Hollywood voodoo, although there are subtle traces of voudou represented here. And it’s written in first person dialect? Hell yeah. Give it a read and the rest of the stories here in this issue, pick up issue #1 (my thoughts on it) if you haven’t, I know FIYAH is only going to get bigger and better from here on out!