What could be more painful than a missing child? And how might the community better support families—especially young, single mothers and their children? In Comfort Stew, acclaimed Chicago poet and playwright Angela Jackson addresses these questions in what she has called “a meditation on motherhood and what it means to love. It is a call to community to renew its vows to the ancestors and to children so that no child is ever truly lost.”
Hillary Robinson Clay, a self-reliant schoolteacher, is the first to notice when four-year-old Enjoli is absent from her preschool class. Guided by the memory of her mother and with support from Jake, a tough man who is capable of tenderness, Hillary parents her teenage daughter, Sojourner, who is the same age as Enjoli’s mother, Patrice. Jake is a storyteller and a “good cop” who follows Hillary’s intuition and goes looking for Enjoli.
As their stories weave together, Jackson explores parenting, generational conflict, and tradition in the context of contemporary African American family life. Maternal wisdom is embodied by succeeding generations of black women in the recipe for an African stew, a dish Hillary learns to honor while adding a spice that makes it her own.
“Tradition, Jackson is saying, must be combined with personal empowerment and responsibility. And the love of community, family and a life partner can help overcome negative social forces . . . Jackson has a fine facility for language, sending her characters on complex but intriguing lyrical journeys.” —Chicago Tribune