If you missed Michelle Obama’s powerful speech at the Democratic National Convention last night, catch it here. She vividly summed up “the story of America” by anchoring it in the lives of “all those folks who sacrificed and overcame so much.” “The story of America” is an expansive phrase that calls up endless places, people, and subplots, and it’s the subject of Mark Ruffin’s brilliant short-story collection about justice and equality in baseball and music. Bebop Fairy Tales is his first book in his 40-year career as a radio broadcaster, most recently a SiriusXM host, and it’s a detail-rich work of historical fiction that sets real athletes and artists in imagined circumstances.
One climactic story, “The Sidewinder,” alludes to Lee Morgan’s 1964 album and takes us to Philly, where a 12-year-old explores his passion for baseball and bebop and navigates racial, cultural, and class lines. The story arc is challenging and risk-taking, all the brilliance you can expect from Ruffin (who once wrote a screenplay in which Fats Waller is kidnapped by Al Capone). Michelle Obama here, Ruffin here, “The Sidewinder” here.