Orginal Publication Date
Explorations in Sights and Sounds
Doris Jean Austin's novel After the Garden unites the tragic themes of patricide and familial fury with the contemporary themes of class struggle within the black community of post-World War II America. At the center of this family saga is Elzina Tompkins, a beautiful young black woman who comes of age in the 1940s urban North. Her grandmother, Rosalie Tompkins, is a powerfully drawn figure whom Austin uses as one side of the equation to show the values of a black woman of some means, a woman who seeks to keep her granddaughter "in the garden." The wayward Jesse James, one of Truselle James' many illegitimate children, provides the other side of the equation in Elzina's struggle to grow up. The sexual attraction she feels for Jesse is the very thing Rosalie has feared. Most of the novel details the married life of Elzina and Jesse, life "after the garden."
Copyright, ©EES, The National Association for Ethnic Studies, 1991