Charlotte Watson Sherman was raised in Seattle, WA. She worked as a
personal recognizance screener, sexual abuse counselor, mental health
interviewer, child welfare worker, and volunteer coordinator for a
literacy program before becoming a librarian. She is the author of the
short fiction collection Killing Color (Calyx Books); two novels, One Dark
Body and touch (HarperCollins); as well as a children’s book, Eli and the
Swamp Man (HarperCollins). She edited the anthology Sisterfire: Black
Womanist Fiction and Poetry (HarperCollins). Her fiction and nonfiction
have appeared in Parenting, Essence, Ms., The Seattle Times, American
Visions, Goodness Portland, and numerous anthologies. She resides in the
The human touch -- Touch by Charlotte Watson Sherman
Petty, Jill. Ms6. 2 (Sep 1995): 78.
Touch By Charlotte Watson Sherman HarperCollins; $20
Charlotte Watson Sherman's second novel, Touch, is a thinking woman's Waiting To Exhale. It has all the requisite ingredients: a slightly offbeat urban locale (Seattle); a group of straight, middle-aged, black women friends; and spirited talk about men, sex, and that other old reliable, clothes. (Thankfully, these sisters seem more invested in their work and relationships than in their wardrobes and houses.) But at the center of this beautifully written story is one woman's struggle to find her place in the world, even as she copes with the new knowledge that she is HIV-positive.
Self-directed and independent, painter Rayna Sargent has always seemed a touch eccentric to her friends and family, who mistrust or misunderstand her steadfast dedication to her work. Rayna has resisted conventional expectations, trading in an uptight, materialistic husband, law school, and more than a few day jobs for a fledgling career as an artist. Her closest girlfriends, C'Anne and Novel, urge her to relax, "invest in just one outfit that matches,' and venture beyond her studio. But all Rayna wants to do is "her work." All of this changes when she tests positive.
Sherman creates unnecessary mystery about how Rayna contracted HIV. But she movingly depicts Rayna's fear and shame. After receiving her devastating news, Rayna wonders "what would become of [her] eyes? She, a painter, must have them to work. What would she see with her eyes now? What would there be to see now that this was inside her? Would it get inside her eyes?" Rayna's pain is further compounded by the fact that she is deeply ashamed of having contracted the virus, and she does not initially reach out to her girlfriends or family for help.
Sherman has a gift for rendering the peculiar inner dialogues that personal crises can force. One of the most moving sequences in the novel occurs when Car, Rayna's kind and heartbroken father, collapses and tries to understand how "his Rayna could get something he heard that mostly pretty boys, junkies, and prostitutes got."
But Rayna has too many real-life sisters; more than three quarters of all women with AIDS in the U.S. are women of color. And, like her, each one has a story--a complicated, rich, and sad story--she could tell.
One Dark Body.
Sherman, Charlotte Watson (author).
Feb. 1993. 224p. HarperCollins, hardcover, $20 (0-06-016924-9). [OCLC].
REVIEW. First published February 15, 1993 (Booklist).
Sherman has penned a haunting, elegiac first novel set in a small African American enclave in the Pacific Northwest. The lives of four disparate yet interrelated individuals intersect in the desolate town of Pearl, Washington, where yesterday coexists alongside today, and tomorrow seems to hold no promise. Abandoned at birth by her mother, 12-year-old Raisin befriends Sin-Sin, a boy on the brink of manhood desperately seeking a father figure. Eventually, when Raisin’s mother and daughter struggle to bridge the emotional, spiritual, and generational gulf that separates them, Blue, a mystical hermit residing in the woods, enables Raisin, Nola, and Sin-Sin to exorcise the demons of the past in order to face the future free of guilt, shame, and regret. A noteworthy contribution to contemporary African American literature. (Reviewed Feb 15, 1993)— Margaret Flanagan
Sherman, Charlotte Watson (author).
Mar. 1992. 110p. Invalid Publisher, hardcover, $16.95 (0-934971-18-8); Invalid Publisher, paperback, $8.95 (0-934971-17-X). [CIP].
REVIEW. First published February 15, 1992 (Booklist).
Sherman’s prose exhibits the varied textures of a true poet. In these 11 stories, her words conjure up images imbued with magic and mystery. A “Swimming Lesson” finds young, gullible Neethie following the advice of friends. To everyone’s surprise, her faith proves to be the only support she needs to walk upon a lake’s surface. Other characters have special gifts as well, and discovering them is one of the pleasures of this collection of short fiction. Like the work of Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Cade Bambara, these stories ring out with African American voices of strength and fury, where humor rests side-by-side with anger. Killing Color places the author among admirable company. An irresistible addition for fiction collections. (Reviewed Feb. 15, 1992)— Alice Joyce