Cover image for Pushkin and the Queen of Spades
Pushkin and the Queen of Spades
Randall, Alice, 1959-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, [2004]

Physical Description:
282 pages ; 24 cm
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Windsor Armstrong is a polished, Harvard-educated African American professor of Russian literature. Her son, Pushkin X, is an exceedingly famous pro football player, an achievement that impresses his mother not at all. Even more distressing, however, her beloved son has just become engaged to a gorgeous white Russian émigré who also happens to be a lap dancer.
For Windsor this predicament is no laughing matter. Determined to get to the bottom of it, she embarks on a journey into her own rich past: to her Motown childhood, where the Temptations danced across the stage and love came disguised as a sharply dressed gangster; to Harvard, where she endured the humiliation of being an unwed black teen mother; to St. Petersburg, where the verses of the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, great-grandson of an African slave, moved through her head as she made love to her own white Russian. The urge to protect her son has been Windsor's only goal, but as she draws ever closer to the secret that has cast a shadow over her life, the identity of her son's father, she discovers that the half-lies she has fed her boy don't add up to the beauty of the truth.
Balancing sharp-witted humor with profundity, sexiness with psychological depth, this is an exhilarating ride straight through the racially divided heart of contemporary America , which also probes the universal question of what it means to be a good mother. Pushkin and the Queen of Spades is a provocative, enormously entertaining novel that will change the landscape of literary fiction.

Author Notes

Alice Randall was born in Detroit and graduated from Harvard in 1981. After a start as a journalist in Washington, D.C., she moved to Nashville to become a country songwriter. The only African-American woman ever to write a number-one country song, she has had more than twenty songs recorded. She is also a screenwriter and has worked on adaptations of Their Eyes Were Watching God, Parting the Waters, and Brer Rabbit. Alice Randall is the author of The Wind Done Gone. She was awarded the Free Spirit Award in 2001 and the Literature Award of Excellence by the Memphis Black Writers Conference in 2002, and she was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award in 2002. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Randall's controversial first novel, The Wind Done Gone, a retelling of Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind from the African American perspective, established her as a writer able to use great literature to create new, racially charged narratives. The story line here is equally promising: Windsor, a Harvard-educated, Afro-Russian scholar, was raped at 18 and elected to keep her son, Pushkin, named after the Russian poet and playwright of mixed-race heritage. Pushkin, now a famous football player, is about to be married to a white Russian lap dancer. Disappointed and confused, Windsor goes over her life, trying to ascertain where she went wrong. Randall's narrator jumps back and forth in time, and long stretches of the story become confusing at best, boring at worst. A chapter-long poem near the book's end is simply embarrassing, and the finale seems tacked on. Despite its many flaws, this novel, read by Lisa Rene? Pitts, has much to offer and several memorable moments. Recommended for most public libraries.-Rochelle Ratner, formerly with Soho Weekly News, New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter 1Look what they done to my boy!I want to say it, too. Pushkin strides across the screen of the television.There is a television in my corner bar, one of the 219 millionin America, and hes up there on its screen. Hes a football player.Hes a freak of nature. His hands are immense. His heartbeats arefew. Fifty million people have watched him on a single Mondaynight. He has given a Russian girl a diamond ring. He means to getmarried. My son is a football player engaged to a Russian-born lapdancer, a girl named Tanya who danced at a club called Mons Venus.There is a God and hes punishing me. This much bad luck cannothappen by accident.I have walked down to the corner to drink and disappear. It shouldbe easy. A black woman in a hillbilly bar vanishes into the shadows ofirrelevancy, especially when she wears preppy clothes.Its third and long. Ive got to make something happen. Ive seentoo many wins and too many losses not to know.I bought the beige dress; I will bite my tongue. Got me threengers of Cutty Sark and half a Valium. My sweet son, my only-bornone, is to be wed. Ive got everything in the world but an invitation.So here I am in Babylon on the Cumberland, trying to wish Idnever borne him. Professors of Russian literature do not spawn footballplayers. Their sons do not marry lap dancers. And when they do... the professor is invited. It belongs to the professor, it belongs tome, to decline. I am a professor of Russian literature; she is a lapdancer. If I had stayed invited, I would not have gone. But I am nolonger invited-the invitation has been rescinded. Pushkins enormoussable hand reached across a table and snatched it back.After all I have done, I should have slapped his face. How manyother women would have carried their pregnant eighteen-year-oldselves all around Harvard? Every other woman I know would haveaborted his unborn ass. Other mothers have only to say, "I changedyour dirty, dirty drawers," or "I sent you to the best schools in thiscountry," and their sons do what they want them to do. I can makeboth of those claims in both those languages. Why wont he doright? Why doesnt he comply? I could kill him.I sound just like my daddy when I say that. I want to go veryMarvin Gayes father on Pushkin. Im crazy like my mother when Ifeel that, but Id kill myself before I would hurt him. Thats a promiseI made before he was born, a promise I have every intention ofkeeping. He cant imagine that. If he could, he would stop telling mehow much I am hurting him. I cant listen anymore. Im the mamaand I know what is best. I know he doesnt need to know who hisdaddy is and he probably shouldnt be marrying a white girl. Thatswhat I know. When did he stop listening to me?My grandmother could throw a book across a room at her sixfoot-tall sons, my father and his brothers, and they didnt dare move.They would let the book y Excerpted from Pushkin and the Queen of Spades: A Novel by Alice Randall All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.