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If I Can Cook/You Know God Can

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IF I CAN COOK/YOU KNOW GOD CAN Ntozake Shange (Beacon, $20) This culinary memoir, filled with ”perusals of history, literature, vernacular, culture, and philosophy,” is as valuable for its inspirational and factual nuggets as it is for its unusual recipes (Pig’s Tails by Instinct, Turtle Eggs and Spices). Novelist and playwright Shange (for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf) even gives directions for growing watermelons. ”I remember being instructed not to…eat watermelon in any public places because it makes white people think poorly of us,” she writes. ”They already did that, so I don’t see what the watermelon was going to precipitate.” Throughout this soul-nourishing cookbook, Shange pays homage to African-American history — what she proudly calls ”the stuff rhumbas are made of.” She ain’t no Martha Stewart. B+

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