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How can a 19-year-old, mixed-race girl who grew up in a crack house and is now pregnant be so innocent? Yslea is full of contradictions, though, seeming both young and old, innocent and wise. Her spirit is surprising, given all the pain she has endured, and that's the counterpoint this story offerswhile she sees pain and suffering all around her, Yslea overcomes in her own quiet way. What Yslea struggles with is expressing her thoughts. And she wonders if she will have something of substance to say to her baby. It's the baby growing inside her that begins to wake her up, that causes her to start thinking about things in a different way. Yslea drifts into the lives of four people who occupy three dilapidated row houses along the train tracks outside of Memphis: "The way their three little row houses sort of leaned in toward each other and the way the paint peeled and some of the windows were covered with cardboard, the row might as easily have been empty."
Dr. Raymond Barfield is a pediatric oncologist at Duke University School of Medicine and Associate Professor of philosophy at Duke Divinity School. He also works with the Institute on Care at the End of Life at Duke Divinity Schoolthe Institute's work crosses disciplines and focuses on the intersection of spirituality and medicine. Ray has a book out from Cambridge University Press, The Ancient Quarrel between Poetry and Philosophy, and he's working on a nonfiction trade book that explores the intersection of spirituality, philosophy and science. He also has a book of poetry that was just published in October.
It's his work with low-income African American children at Duke University Hospital and his previous experience in the ERs of Atlanta and Memphis inner-city hospitals that make him so familiar with the protagonist in The Book of Colors.
Ray says he has met Yslea many times and her voice is embedded in his head. And he is so passionate about the book, he will go to the ends of the earth to promote it.