Reading Devil Bird from Echo Tree: The Collected Short Fiction of Henry Dumas. Dumas was part of the Black Arts Movement, a civil rights activist, poet, and writer. In 1968, was tragically shot and killed in a New York City subway in a case of mistaken identity. Much of his work was out of print until it was resurrected by Eugene B. Redmond, academic, poet, and activist. Thanks to Redmond, we can experience the writings of a man that Toni Morrison called “an absolute genius.”
Devil Bird is at once terrifying, real, and magical, a tale told through the eyes of a boy who participates with his father in a card game between God and the Devil. A trickster crow is conjured by the Devil, who, at the end of the story, tells the boy as he sets him afire:
To profit by what is heard,
You must remember that
I am a prophet,
Not a bird.
I don’t want to give anything away here—I encourage you to read all of the stories in Echo Tree for yourself. I will only say that like many works of fiction, Dumas’s work is a piece of history you can hold in your hands, a retelling of a culture and times, of myth, reality, and experience, one I highly recommend that you have for yourself.
—Rachael Benavidez, Associate Editor