‘Malta Sheffer’ by Nelson Eubanks

Eubanks, Nelson 2004

Malta Sheffer by Nelson Eubanks, 2004

The magic trick:

Framing the childhood memory as self-consciously set in a ‘brown world’

And a very happy Opening Day to you! Basketball long ago supplanted baseball as my favorite sport, but there’s nothing quite like the start of a new baseball season. I’m still a sucker for the pomp and circumstance and the tradition and the history and dawn of a new summer and all that.

So today we have a baseball story of the kind that isn’t told nearly enough – the non-white baseball experience. And that’s important; it’s not an incidental fact. This story goes out of its way to frame itself through race. All it takes is one sentence: “…my classes at private school were finishing, which meant I could slip out of my white world and fade back into my brown one where nobody had too much more than anyone else which wasn’t so much.”

And that’s quite a trick on Eubanks’s part.

The selection:

Puerto Ricans stood like shadows on the corners and on the stoops and out the project windows, looking this way and that way, leaning and talking loud and smiling and laughing, so, though it was dark, you could hear them far off into the night. Lights popped on and peppered the big buildings around us as merengue and salsa and disco poured out of the lit squares and dark stoops. The music filled the streets, and boys were getting in their last at bats of stickball.

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