Posts tagged ‘Slavery’

The power of rage – “Forty Acres” by Dwayne Alexander Smith

18774967This book is such a great idea. In fact, it is so good I am surprised that this storyline hasn’t been done before.  For the story alone, Forty Acres is worth the read.  Just go into this read knowing that Smith is a screenplay writer. So in many parts of this novel it seems better written for the screen than a book.  I don’t think this takes much away from the story or what the author is trying to convey, it is just is a bit of a hiccup.

Martin Grey is an African-American attorney in New York. He and his partner are slowly building their law firm. When Martin wins a big lawsuit the firm’s success is guaranteed and he feels like things are all falling into place.  Adding to his new-found success, Martin is approached by an extremely successful African-American attorney, Damon. Damon invites Martin to meet some of his friends.  All of the friends are extremely successful African-American men who seem to have everything.  After a very careful vetting, Martin is invited for the group’s yearly white-water rafting trip.  When the private jet lands Martin begins to suspect that the armed guards meeting them are not taking them on a rafting trip.  Instead Martin is taken to a large plantation home, his bag is taken up to his room by a skittish caucasian boy. He realizes, fairly quickly, that he has now joined a secret society of African-American men who have enslaved caucasian people to serve them.  The society was established by Dr. Kasim who has determined that the only way to deal with black rage, and the painful history every black man must face, he must have the opportunity to be the master in the master-slave relationship.   He must have retribution. And so, Martin is faced with an awful dilemma, join the society or be killed himself so the society can remain secret.

This book is labeled a thriller. And it is that, but it is more.  Smith has found an interesting way to talk about how our history of slavery affects all of us.  How it continues to control how our lives play out, particularly for African-Americans.  I found it really interesting.  Smith also addresses the anger and rage that is inside many African-American men and posits that without an outlet this rage will destroy.  The question is really what outlet is appropriate.  And what is justice, true justice, for the past generations enslaved and what is the right penance that those whose ancestors enslaved others must pay.  Smith obviously takes this to the extreme but what a great way to grab the reader’s attention.  Either way, rage and the history of slavery cannot be ignored – and if Ferguson, Missouri shows us anything, it is surely that we, as a nation, continue to live in the shadow of both.

 

Other reviews to check out: 

September 21, 2014 at 7:13 pm 5 comments

Slavery of the mind and body- “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd

I am embarrassed that I knew nothing about Sarah and Angelina Grimke before this book.  As an American woman I feel like I should have a better understanding of the amazing women who changed and shaped our lives.  Obviously something I need to do a better job of accomplishing.

The Grimke sisters were born to a slave-owning family in Charleston, South Carolina. Both women became abolitionists who spoke out against slavery in the mid-1800s, much to their family’s astonishment and disgrace.  They also worked tirelessly for women’s rights.  Sue Monk Kidd has taken Sarah Grimke’s story and written a piece of historical fiction.  The chapters interchange. The first chapter is narrated by a slave, Handful (aka Hetty), owned by the Grimkes. The narrator then changes in the next chapter to Sarah.

Handful’s story is harrowing and everything that is shameful and heart wrenching about slavery – particularly slavery for women, which has the added dimension of rape, pregnancy and motherhood.  Sarah’s story is also harrowing (though less so) as she is trapped in the limitations of being a woman in the 1800s.  Kidd does a commendable job of interweaving the two stories.  She addresses the fact that the unbelievable cruelty of humans can quite quickly become the acceptable normal if we let it.  Even Sarah, who knows in her soul that slavery is wrong, finds herself immune to it at times.

I’d grown comfortable with the particulars of evil. There’s a frightful muteness that dwells at the center of all unspeakable things, and I had found my way into it. 

Kidd writes these characters well. All of the women, slave and slave owner, are multidimensional and extremely conflicted.  My struggle with the book is one of society – there were times when Sarah seemed so self-absorbed and removed from the pain of Handful.  But again, how to appropriately judge her is hard because, sitting in my comfortable reading chair in the year of 2014, my life is quite a bit different.  Kidd works tirelessly at conveying that while Handful’s body is enslaved, Sarah’s mind is enslaved.   And while one is quite a bit more devastating, slavery of the mind can be very dangerous.

Perhaps the most beautiful piece of the story is the quilting that Handful and her mother do together at night to tell the story of their lives.  This kind of need to talk about pain, to convey the journey, to know where we come from is powerful.  Without this connection, this history and beauty, Handful would have been lost to all of the horror of slavery with no reprieve.

There was a time in Africa the people could fly. Mauma told me this one night when I was ten years old. She said, “Handful, your granny-mauma saw it for herself. She say they flew over trees and clouds. She say they flew like blackbirds. When we came here, we left that magic behind.

quilt17

 

Other reviews to check out:

From Wednesday Book Review

From The Unlikely Librarian 

From daeandwrite

 

August 5, 2014 at 11:11 am 4 comments


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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.

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