Babylon Rolling

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-08-11
  • Publisher: Vintage
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From the acclaimed author ofPretty Little Dirty("a first novel of complex truth and beauty"--San Francisco Chronicle), comes a glittering, gritty, and unflinching story of five families--black, white, and Indian--living along one block of Uptown, New Orleans. It is the summer of 2004, and Orchid Street is changing. Newcomers Ariel May and her husband, Ed, relocated from Minnesota, are trying to make sense of the Southern city. From her front porch, Philomenia Beauregard de Bruges watches her new neighbors, the Guptas, as they move into one of the biggest homes. Across the way, Daniel Harris, aka Fearius, has just been released from juvenile detention. And Cerise Brown, a longtime resident now in her late seventies, hopes only to pass the rest of her days in peace. But with one random accident, a scene of horror on Cerise's front lawn, the whole neighborhood converges on the sidewalk to help, to cast blame, and to offer hope. And as Hurricane Ivan churns his way toward the city, bringing a different series of challenges, these new relationships tighten, intertwining the families' paths for better and for worse. Told in five achingly real voices,Babylon Rollingis the story of one year on Orchid Street, a place where lives clash and collide, and where the humid air is charged with constant wanting. Offering a bold understanding of human nature and the hidden prejudices we harbor,Babylon Rollingis a powerful portrait of racism in America and a city on the edge of transformation. From the Hardcover edition.

Author Biography

Amanda Boyden was born in Minnesota and raised in Chicago and St. Louis. Formerly a circus trapeze artist and contortionist, she earned her MFA from the University of New Orleans, where she now teaches writing. Her first novel, Pretty Little Dirty was published in 2006.

From the Hardcover edition.


Fearius stare from the car at Stumps Grocery and Liquor. Painted on the siding: Package meat Fried rice Cold drinks. He might could drink a strawberry cold drink. Orange. Fearius like cold drinks better than malt liquor when they smokin the hydroponic, but Alphonse be inside Stumps for Colt 40s, and Fearius, his bankroll thin as a spliff now. Thin as quarters and a dime thin. Juvey dont pay, dont he know.

But Fearius, he be patient. He learnt it. He waited to make fifteen full years of age inside juvey, waited four months sitting in there. Finally turned legal for driving on a learner permit when he caged up in Baby Angola with no wheels nowhere. Now he borrowing a license till he take the test. Why he hafta take a test to drive when he been driving since he made twelve, Fearius dont know. Maybe he just go buy a license. He be working soon, back tight with everybody, two weeks, three, fatten up the bitch bankroll.

Fearius flick the cardboard tree smell like piña colada on the rear- view, rag the sweat off his shaved head. He open the glovebox and touch Alphonses Glock. Pretty thing, hot as they get. Stinkin like firecrackers.

Alphonse walk out Stumps and pass Fearius a 40 in brown paper, wet on the bottom, sweatin. Everything sweatin. Fearius dick sweatin in his drawers.

“You want it?” Alphonse ask about the gun. Or maybe the beer.

“I earn it,” Fearius say about the Glock and the 40 both.

Alphonse nod, get in, take the Glock and shove it in his pants.

Two hours still before Shandra off work. Shandra gots a friend, she say. Fearius need, need,needa friend. He just gone take a friend soon, he toll Alphonse. Alphonse said, “Be patient.” Fearius remember he know patient. And Alphonse gots the Glock. Patient be way easier with a gun.

Autumn is running around in a circle at the end of its tether, Ariel May decides, as far away as it can get from the stake of New Orleans. She misses fall with a pang, squints against the thick afternoon sun, licks salty sweat from her upper lip. The streetcar stinks of too many bodies and is full of noise, and the junior high school kids in their uniforms and blue braids and attitudes with music leaking out of the little speakers crammed into their ears irritate Ariel enough so that she uncrosses her legs and takes up more room on the wooden seat, presses her hot thigh beneath her wrinkled linen skirt against the loud girl next to her. The girl can’t be more than twelve, Ariel surmises, but she has C-cup tits at least, maybe Ds. How does a body so young grow those things? Maybe the girl is older. Maybe she’s dumb and has failed a couple of grades.

The girl doesn’t notice Ariel’s leg at all though. Instead, she busily rubs some kind of pale salve the consistency of mucus onto the propped-up elbows of the girl squatting on the seat in front of her and blathers on about what another girl did. She’ll bust her fuckin skinny-ass face if she thinks about fuckin doin it again. A cursive tattoo shows on the second girl’s upper arm through the short sleeve of her thin white uniform shirt. Ariel wants to swat the tub of goo out the open window. She’s tired. Hot, hot. Here, inside this streetcar, perpetual summer drapes itself around Ariel’s neck like a stole. Like a giant piece of raw bacon stole.

The streetcar squeals to another stop. Two waiters in their black and whites squeeze on. The junior high kids jammed up front fan their noses and talk about the waiters’ pizza funk and pepperoni faces. When the streetcar takes off again, the little breeze that snakes its way past the salving girls is a drooly lick. A breeze almost worse than none. Ariel sighs and remembers woodsmoke, brown leaves dancing across a sidewalk. The people who have lived here their entire lives can’t have any idea what they’re missing.


Excerpted from Babylon Rolling by Amanda Boyden
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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