Kindred

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Kindred takes place in 1976 and in 1815.  Dana a young African-American woman periodically experiences dizziness and black outs which enable her to go back in time to 1815.  The experience of going back to the slave days is shocking and terrible for her in the beginning.  She is extremely distressed since she has no idea how this happens.  Divided between the fear of having to live life as a slave and helping Rufus, who she saves from drowning on her first trip, she is driven down a perilous journey of truth about her family and herself that will change her and her husband Kevin forever.

Kindred reads as a historical fiction novel with a twist of science-fictional time traveling.  I never thought these two could work so well in a novel but they do.  The novel is written in a simple style, and reads very quickly.  However, Butler delves deeply into themes like race, violence, family, and home in a manner that is quite intense .  In addition, she explores the theme of power and how it can become a  corrupt tool of  influence and cruel manipulation.

The first quarter of the book we are trying to understand like Dana, how and why this is happening.  Unfortunately, that is never really addressed, so quickly what will happen to Dana and how she relates to all the different people on the plantation becomes the primary plot of the novel.  Things get messier when Kevin, her white husband grabs on to her and winds up back in slavery times with her.  The awkwardness of the situation is frightening.  There Butler makes Dana and Kevin face this difficulty head on like a slap in the face.  The mounting tension and horrific violence from whippings, rapes, hangings, and dog attacks, Butler is forcing the reader to see the reality of the time period along with Dana.  Many times I kept putting myself in Dana’s shoes and wondering how I’d react.

Dana was a trooper in the beginning trying to think of everything and to prepare for things, but what she didn’t realise is that she fell slowly but surely into the role of a sort of modern-day Mamie.  She is bound to the past not only physically but mentally since she seems unable to break the link between herself and Rufus.  We see Rufus grow from and innocent boy into an unsparing, conniving man.  A man who is meant to run a plantation although he does it through being cruel and by making people fear him.  Dana finally grows at the end with much difficulty and mostly because she feels she understands what she sees happening in 1815 more than she really does.  The trap is there.  The psychological manipulation that Rufus uses on her his criminal.

If you haven’t read this story you should definitely check it out.  Octavia E. Butler really knew how to turn a story and this one has many twists and turns that will make every reader think.  Butler began writing at 10 and writing science-fiction at 12.  Her love for writing came out of her boredom for she was an only child.  It was the science-fiction movie Devil Girl from Mars which made her attempt to write science-fiction.  She was quoted as saying she knew she could write a better story and that she did.  Happily for us, Butler overcame dyslexia and went on to write many novels and short stories, such as Fledgling, Lilith’s Brood, and Parable Seed.  She won the Hugo Award twice, once in 1984 for best short story with Speech Sounds and in 1985 for best novelette with Bloodchild.  She also won the Nebula award twice for best novel, once for best short story, and best novelette.  In 2010, she was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.  Does it sound like I’m pushing Butler?  Yes, I am.  Well the next Butler book I’ll be picking up will be Fledgling.  I’m dying to see how she wrote about vampires and I’m not that keen on vampire stories either.  To be continued…..  Check out the link below to hear more about Octavia E. Butler.  Brilliant!

One Crazy Summer

This summer I plunged into One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.  Its attractive cover will definitely 13639804entice Middle Grade readers, as well as Young Adult readers to discover a crazy summer in Oakland, California in 1968.  The novel begins with Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, threes sisters on their way to Oakland in pursuit of their mother that left them behind.  Their meeting with Cecile, their mother, alias Nzila, will lead the girls to more than who their mother is but to a better understanding of the fight for Civil Rights.

One Crazy Summer explores everyday life in the sixties, while depicting another aspect of the Black Panthers’ movement.  It’s a touching and informative lesson in Black History.  The story means even more since it’s being told through the eyes of Delphine, the oldest sister who is eleven years old and responsible for everything.  She is terribly veracious in recounting the story and her personal feelings.  You will feel attached and supportive of her.  Vonetta is the middle sister and she loves to be seen, while Fern is the youngest and follows her two big sisters and looks to them for solace.

Rita Williams-Garcia won four major awards – the Scott O’Dell Awards for Historical Fiction, the Newberry Honor Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and was a National Book Award Finalist for One Crazy Summer along with many other literary distinctions.  The book is a lovely edition which contains Williams-Garcia’s acceptance speech for the Coretta Scott King award, a deleted chapter, and activities that could be used in schools to study this novel more in-depth.  Well worth the read and full of wonderful ideas for teachers that want to teach more African-American history. I rated One Crazy Summer 4 stars on Goodreads.  I’m very interested in discovering more of Rita Williams-Garcia’s work.  Some of her other titles include Blue Tights, Every Time a Rainbow Dies, Fast talk on a Slow Track, Jumped, Like sisters on the Homefront, and No Laughter Here.  This book seems to be a tribute to the children who lived through the vociferous times of the sixties.  …” “I had enjoyed my childhood.”  In spite of the necessary upheaval going on in the country and the world,….in spite of being reminded that tomorrow was not promised, I enjoyed my childhood.  My siblings and I indulged in now-vanishing pastimes.  We played hard.  Read books. Colored with crayons.  Rode bikes.  Spoke as children spoke.  Dreamed our childish dreams.  If our parents did anything for us at all, they gave us a place to be children and kept the adult world in its place-as best as they could.  But curious eyes and ears always latch on to something.” (One Crazy Summer, p.3 of Extras – An excerpt from Rita Williams-Garcia’s Acceptance Speech for the Coretta Scott King Author Award for One Crazy Summer)

After her father was discharged from the army, Williams-Garcia and her family moved back to New York where there was a strong presence of the Black Panther Party.  The image that she saw of them in her neighborhood didn’t at all equate to the image that was being delineated in the media.  She admits openly to members of her family being former Black Panthers and Black Nationalists.  Subsequently, this beautifully written story about the Black Panther Party’s handiwork in the black community and three little black girls discovering their mother and their civic duty is one you shouldn’t miss, not to mention it’s perfect for young readers. Click the link below to hear Rita Williams-Garcia speaking sprightly about One Crazy Summer and go to http://www.ritawg.com for more information about her work and her future upcoming events.

Gathering of Waters

I can’t say I’ve read lots of books by Bernice L. McFadden.  Actually I’ve only read two, Glorious and 11225026Gathering of Waters.  Glorious was a story about a Harlem renaissance writer, which I enjoyed until it ended abruptly and left me searching for more.  I embarked on Gathering of Waters for three reasons; 1. because it was written by Bernice L. McFadden, 2. because it was the 2013 Clutch Reading group on Goodreads title choice for the month of May, and 3.  after I read the inside flap of the book with this stunning cover, I was immediately sold and knew I had to read it.

The story basically follows three generations of women from 1900 to 2005.  So, it covers life leading up to the week before Emmett Till is murdered and goes on beyond that.  I found this story beautifully recounted and that dash of magical realism that makes the entire story come to life unexpectedly.  There are a range of engrossing characters who are defined and developed perfectly.  The book isn’t very long so McFadden was successful in depicting the characters in particular situations and with rich, moving, and sassy dialogue.  Gathering of Waters, has that bold, direct storytelling style that makes African-American literature so thought-provoking.  It’s stuffed full of excellent one liners that mean so much.

Now I have to mention the debate I’ve been hearing about the usage of Emmett Till in the story.  There are people out there who think McFadden is using the Emmett Till murder to plug her book.  I can see how people would think that but it’s not the case.  If you read the inside flap of the book, that is basically a short synopsis of the story that you will be reading.  What McFadden does is set Emmett Till in a real space of life so that he becomes more than just a murdered young black man.  There was a before, a now, and an after and McFadden explores all that.  The fact that she decided to write this book is also edifying.  There are people out there who don’t even know who Emmett Till was and I’m not just talking about white people.  This incident was one of  many stains on American history that hasn’t made it in the history books.  How did I learn about that tragic night for Emmett Till?  – Of course from my mother and my grand-mother.  Oral discourse, the oldest way to pass on family traditions, history, and cultural habits.  Gathering of Waters is a perfect example of that.

Money, Mississippi is the narrator.  It lets you in on all the workings and secrets of this microcosm.  The ‘gathering of waters’ is more than a place that’s squashed between bodies of water, a place called Mississippi.  It is also symbolic of that fine line that separates blacks from whites.  It is the place where they meet like bouncing molecules off one another.  They come together for a moment only to separate soon there after.

Bernice L. McFadden has been writing since she was eight years old.  Her first novel, Sugar, which is part of a duo, was published in 2000.  She’s written other compelling novels like Glorious, This Bitter Earth (second part of Sugar), Nowhere is a Place, Loving Donovan, and others.  She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Warmest December.  She is strongly influenced by authors like Toni Morrison, Ann Petry, Alice Walker,  J. California Cooper, and Rita Dove.  McFadden describes writing as something that comes to her and a necessity.  McFadden says, “I write to breathe life back into memory.”

Title: Gathering of Waters

Genre:  African-American Literature/Historical Fiction/Southern

Published:  2012

Edition:  Akashic Books

Pages:  252

Language:  English

My rating:  * * * * 1/2

+5,761

If Beale Street Could Talk

38463This book really took me by surprise.  The last James Baldwin book I read was Go Tell it on the Mountain and that was over 20 years ago.  I just remember enjoying parts of it and other parts were a bit slow.  If Beale Street Could Talk is the story of Fonny and Clementine alias Tish.  They are deeply in love and are planning to move into a loft flat in Greenwich Village together.  It’s the 1970s and relations between blacks and whites are tense.  They finally find a loft apartment where they can live together and Fonny can do his passion sculpting.  When one day the police come and take Fonny away because he’s being accused of rape.  From there, the story follows the trials and tribulations of Fonny trying to stay positive that he will get out of jail and Fonny and Tish’s families trying to earn enough money to pay the lawyer’s fees and most of all trying to support each other during this difficult time.

What struck me about If Beale Street Could Talk, Baldwin’s thirteenth novel, was that it was direct, realistic, and the impressive in-your-face style of writing.  Baldwin was telling it like it was, as always.  If you’re not ready to listen then abstain.  The language is very 1970s but I found it somehow refreshing.  The story is fiction but it rings as a true one.  Baldwin even adds sexually explicit scenes to accentuate the reality of the story even more.  The families seem to represent two types of families in the black community.  There was Tisha’s family that remains unified and supporting each other no matter what.  They will brave fire and walk to the ends of the Earth for each other.  On the other hand, Fonny’s family is superficial, judgmental, and unreliable.  His mother claims to be a christian although she has the most unchristian  attitude and believes that she is better than everybody else.  His sisters are frivolous and negligent on their quests to find husbands and picking from the most ineligible types.  They don’t seem to care very much about their brother and that goes even before he gets thrown into jail.  Sonny’s father Frank loves him very much but as the story progresses he proves to be unable to keep up the strength needed to help Fonny get out of jail.

Baldwin put a lot of emphasis on character development and less on the story, but that wasn’t a problem at all since the characters are described and put into situations so that we can understand them better.  Even so, the novel reads with ease and the dated expressions conjure up some humour.  My favourite character is Ernestine, Tish’s sister, because of her strong personality and her frankness.  She is a really self-sufficient, strong character who really knows what to do and say.

I really enjoyed reading If Beale Street Could Talk because this was one of the many important classic works of African-American literature.  James Baldwin was a master.  He always managed to tell the most realistic stories about African-Americans and their difficulty to survive and to progress.  If you haven’t had the pleasure of picking up any of his work, I highly recommend If Beale Street Could Talk.  It contains themes of racism, love, and solidarity among the disinherited that are fighting for their rights the best they can with the little they’ve got.  These themes are very universal but are all treated in intricate woven threads around the unfair imprisonment of Fonny.  It is a bittersweet tale and the quote on the back of the Vintage International edition is spot on, “A moving, painful story, so vividly human and so obviously based on reality that it strikes us as timeless.” – Joyce Carol Oates.

Title: If Beale Street Could Talk

Genre:  African-American/Classic/Literature

Published:  1974

Edition:  Vintage International

Pages:  197

Language:  English

Favorite quote: “Neither love nor terror makes one blind: indifference makes one blind.” (If Beale Street Could Talk, p. 99)

My rating:  * * * * 

+5,165

The Personal History of Rachel DuPree

7935678It is 1917 and Rachel and Isaac have been married for fourteen years.  They left Chicago to settle in the South Dakota Badlands to farm a large quantity of land bought together.  Rachel and Isaac’s love and family grow through harsh winters, excessive droughts, and back-breaking chores while trying to raise children and make a living from the land.  This was not a typical lifestyle for African-Americans at that time.

Isaac is a strong terribly ambitious ex-buffalo soldier with an extreme hatred for the Native American Indian.  Rachel is a naive, worn down woman who is seeking love, family, and her own home.  They enter into their marriage as a contract both hoping to get what they desire, where the harsh South Dakota Badlands puts them both to the test.

The setting of The Personal History of Rachel Dupree is stark and lonely.  This black family is not only isolated by their location but by their race as well.  They are the only blacks farming in this area and their nearest neighbours are white and at least five miles away. Loneliness and isolation are omnipresent.  Weisgarber got the idea for this novel after seeing a picture of a black woman in front of a sod dugout during one of her trips through the Badlands.  She felt that it was disappointing that this bit of African-American history had been ignored and began writing The Personal History of Rachel DuPree.  This book has a myriad of themes running through it such as racism, feminism, farming life, family, marriage, and the list goes on.  It would make an excellent book club choice.  There is a lot to discuss.

The Personal History of Rachel DuPree was shortlisted for the Orange Award for New Writers and longlisted for the Orange Prize in 2009.  The Winner was An Equal Stillness by Francesca Kay.  The is was an excellent start for Ann Weisgarber as a first novel.  The topic was unusual and attempted in an interesting manner.  In spite of that, I felt that it was strange how I didn’t really feel much for Rachel or any other character in the novel.  I must admit I started to fill better about her by the end of the story.  The best described character in the novel was Mrs. DuPree, Isaac’s mother.  She was a stern, ambitious, mean-spirited, nasty piece of work.  She brought some life to the book though.  You could almost imagine what she looked like.  I enjoyed the chapter on Ida B. Wells-Barnett (the first African-American journalist writing articles defending blacks and women), which was an excellent way of Weisgarber setting Rachel’s standards and expectations of life.  It helped me understand more about why she made the quick decision in the first place to marry Isaac DuPree.  In the end, I was glad to have read it, but I felt as if this book was missing something that I couldn’t seem to put my finger on.

Ann Weisgarber was born and raised in Ohio.  She has a Bachelor of Arts and Masters in Social Work and Sociology. She lives in Texas.  She and her husband love the outdoors and visiting national parks.  Her second novel The Promise was just released in March 2013.  It is another compelling story with intriguing characters, love, and hidden secrets set in the midst of a natural disaster.

Title: The Personal History of Rachel DuPree

Genre:  Historical Fiction/African-American/Women’s

Published:  2008

Edition:  Pan Books

Pages:  307

Language:  English

My rating:  * * * 1/2

+4,530

 

Wench

I’ve wanted to get my hands on this book for quite some time and the Clutch 2013 reading group on 6751356Goodreads gave me the shove I needed.  Wench is the four-part story of Lizzie, Reenie, Sweet, and Mawu.  They are more than wenches.  In the beginning, before the novel really starts, Perkins-Valdez depicts the change in meaning of the word wench.  “In the middle ages the word wench simply meant a girl, maid, young woman; a female child, but in the United States from 1812-1832 a wench was a black or colored female servant; a negress and by 1848 the definition became a colored woman of any age; a negress or mulattress, especially one in service.”(Wench)  This sets the lugubrious tone of what is yet to come in the novel.

Tawawa House was a resort built in the free state of Ohio.  It was built for the white Northern elite to partake of the natural spring water which was deemed good for the health, but over time Southern slave owners began frequenting the resort accompanied by their slave concubines for the summer.  Here these women bonded with each other  in their own way through their condition of utter servitude.  At Tawawa House the women were subjected to all kinds of mistreatment, sordid situations, and persistent promiscuous sex in an animalistic way.  It’s obvious that the author is trying to show the backward thinking of the period,i.e. that slaves were like animals and extremely promiscuous.  “I felt that given the sexual servitude of my female characters, this word would most accurately evoke the set of cultural expectations they were entangled within.” (Wench About the author, p. 4)

Lizzie was the only one of the four that didn’t seem to understand her place as a slave.  She loved Drayle, her master, and she seemed to believe that he loved her.  It is very hard to imagine that to be true, but I believe this is the main controversy of the story.  At times she even imagined herself dressed as if she was a lady and tried to adopt their mannerisms.  The only time she thought of freedom was for her two children, Nate and Rabbit.  Mawu, however, was head-strong and determined.  She didn’t mind saying what was on her mind and it was clear that freedom was on her mind from the beginning of the story.  She spoke of how she tried to devise ways to discourage her master from sleeping with her.  Sweet was pregnant with her fifth child, the embodiment of motherhood, whereas Reenie was the oldest of the group, trying to hide herself anyway that she could.

Surprisingly, Tawawa House was not the only resort around but low and behold existed another resort not very far away for free coloreds.  The slaves’ first encounter with free blacks, other than the blacks working in Tawawa House’s kitchen, was a moment of freedom in itself, yet darkened by a large dose of fear.  It opened Pandora’s box.  In spite of the fear, the visit sparked a desire for freedom that never stopped growing.  It compelled them all to reflect on their individual situations.  It was like a disease seeping into their veins for which there was no cure.  How did this all affect them?  You’ll just have to read for yourself and find out.

The writing style was beautiful and sensitive.  The descriptions were detailed, realistic, and poignant.  In my opinion, the characters were endearing, but for me Lizzie was a total enigma.  I didn’t feel very sympathetic toward her as a character and I was always anticipating the worst to happen when she was involved.  Her character made me uncomfortable.  The controversy around Wench lies there.  Could there have actually been love between a master and a slave?  What kinds of horrendous stereotypes go through the minds of people today when they see white men and black women in relationships? And, why? Perkins-Valdez definitely has a way with words; so much so that there were scenes that made me want to cry.  Wench is heart-rending.

Perkins-Valdez has painted a story that focuses quite closely on slavery in a way that hasn’t been explored in literary fiction before.  This is mainly because of the taboo nature of the novel.  She was inspired to write this book after reading  the biography of W.E.B. Dubois where he mentioned slave masters taking their slave mistresses to a resort in Ohio.  So, Tawawa House really existed.  Although she could never find any documented specific stories about this place, she began to imagine what it would be like to be one of those slave mistresses.  It’s a known fact that these unusual arrangements were existent and widespread among slave owners, but the resort adds a new facet, which allowed her to explore and focus on the slave mistresses.

Unfortunately, I have to talk about what I didn’t like about Wench. There were two things in particular.  The first problem was sometimes when she switched topics within the story, it was sometimes done with no warning.  That threw me off guard at times and I found myself rereading certain passages.  The second real disappointment was the ending.  It fell totally flat for me, while leaving so many unanswered questions.  It was as if she had no idea how she was going to end  the story, especially since she’d worked so hard to spin an interesting one.  Perkins-Valdez wrapped the package up, but forgot to put ribbon and a card on it.  That really killed me.

This is Dolen Perkins-Vladez’s first novel.  She was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee.  She is a Harvard graduate and has written essays appearing in the North Carolina Literary Review and The Kenyon Review.  She is currently working on her second novel.

Title: Wench

Genre:  Women’s/African-American/Historical Fiction

Published:  2010

Edition:  Harper Collins Publishers – Amistad

Pages:  290

Language:  English

My rating:  * * *  1/2 

My favorite quote:  ”Don’t be afraid to say how you feel.  Learn a craft so you always have something to barter other than your private parts. ” (Wench, p. 288)

+2,365

23. Silver Sparrow

   “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist.  He was already married   ten years when he first clamped eyes on my mother.” (Silver Sparrow, p. 3) Wow! What an incredibly powerful way to start this novel.  This story is set in the 80s in Atlanta in a middle class African-American neighborhood.  James Witherspoon has two wives and two daughters.  They live in different neighborhoods and have no knowledge of each other, until one day Dana becomes aware that she is the secret.  She is her father’s second daughter.  The story develops when a forbidden friendship between the two daughters leads to the truth and unfortunately destruction.

The story is recounted from the first person. Part 1 is Dana Lynn Yarboro’s story and the second part is Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon’s story.  They were about the same length in pages but I found the voice of Dana more impressionable and endearing.  The writing was delicate, powerful, and at times I felt as if I was eavesdropping on the characters.  The scenes are edifying and depict the emotions and characters deeply.  I enjoyed reading the story and it flowed delicately each page I turned.  Although, I found the ending a little frustrating, I anticipated it and was anxious about it.  Actually, there was something about the writing style that reminded me a little of Toni Morrison.  It ‘s the sentimental way that emotions and situations are described.

I gave this book four stars because it was a very interesting read from an African-American woman writer that many people may have not heard of before.  I happened upon this book while browsing a blog called black girl lost in a book.  You can check out her blog at http://naysue.wordpress.com/.  Silver Sparrow was on her notable release list and I thought I’d give it a go.  I’m glad I did.  Tayari Jones is an intelligent storyteller and has a bright writing future ahead.  She is a native of Atlanta and studied at Spellman College, Arizona State University, and the University of Iowa.  She was also a winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction in 2003. While Silver Sparrow was her third novel, she also wrote Leaving Atlanta her first novel, which tells a fictionalized story of the Atlanta child murders that happened from 1979 to 1981.  Her second novel was called The Untelling and it recounts the story of a woman trying to overcome her difficult past.  I urge you all to take a look at Tayari Jones because we will surely be hearing more about her as well as reading more from her in the future.

20. Not A Day Goes By

John “Basil” Henderson is a smooth, fine, chocolate brother who’s turned the head of Yancey Harrington Braxton or is it the other way around.  Needless to say, they both come from dysfunctional families and are looking for love.  Yancey is a beautiful, arrogant, highly competitive Broadway star, who spends money as if it’s water running freely from a faucet.  Their love story seems to be unshakable and passionate until we as readers learn of Basil’s secret love for men.  Basil is a man on the down low.  What does on the down low mean?  On the down low is an African-American expression used to describe men who identify as heterosexuals but that hide the fact that they also enjoy having sex with men.  Could they be described as bisexual? Possibly.  It’s also possible that they are men having difficulty fully accepting  their homosexuality.  As the story goes on, it’s obvious that it is very hard for Basil to squelch his desire for men and he partially uses his relationship with Yancey to do so.  We also realize that Yancey is a perpetual liar and has a perplexing relationship with her mother Eva.

Not having read E. Lynn Harris before, I was pleasantly surprised.  I felt his use of the narrator got to the crux of the ambiguous feelings that Basil was having about his sexuality.  Basil’s narrator voice is very strong and precise.  So much so that  when there was narrating for Yancey, it seemed to be very neutral.  I think this is done on purpose to make Basil a more sympathetic character and to express his feelings in an impressionable way.  Harris’ hopeful writing style is inviting and very African-American culture based.  It flows and is vivid.  Some people may find this slightly isolating, but in essence it’s refreshing.  I enjoyed his clever lines like, “Life is full of required courses; it’s the electives that are a bitch.” (Not A Day Goes By, p. 276) or “You didn’t eat all that, did you?  Honey, you better watch it or your little narrow hips are going to spread faster than a rumor.” (Not A Day Goes By, p. 245)  The characters’ names were maybe a bit over the top – Windsor, Zurich, Yancey… I was thinking who would have these names and do I know any African-Americans with names like these.  All in all it’s a fast paced, light read with frequent plot twists.  I give it three and a half stars.  I can’t give it more because I think it went a little too fast and I would have also prefered a better ending because frankly it was a little predictable.

E. Lynn Harris died in 2009 at the age of 54.  He was really known for portraying fairly affluent African-American gay men often tormented about hiding their homosexuality and leading double lives.  Invisible Life is the trilogy that got him famous.   In the beginning, he found no one who would publish Invisible Life so he published it himself and sold it in African-American owned bookshops, book clubs, and beauty salons.  Finally, Anchor Books discovered him and published Invisible Life in 19994 and Harris’ career soared.  Some of his other known novels are And This Too Shall Pass, A Love of My Own, Any Way the Wind Blows, Just As I Am, If This World Were Mine, I Say A Little Prayer, and many more.  Two of his books were published posthumously – Mama Dearest(2009) and In My Father’s House (2010).  I think the majority of his enthusiastic fans are African-American women, but anybody who likes reading a well-written story with twists, and is a little interested in African-American culture would easily become a fan.  His writing really does transcend all groups of people.  Harris is surely being missed in the literary world because of the fresh honest content of his novels about being gay and African-American.  I’m sure I’ll read something else by Harris surely before the end of the year.  Stay tuned…..  If you’ve read Harris comment below and tell me which novel was your favorite and why?  Happy reading….

8. A Mercy

Toni Morrison is one of my favorite authors – The Bluest Eye, Sula, Beloved, Paradise, Song of Solomon, etc.  I discovered her and her incredible novels in my second year of university, as an English lit major and have never stopped reading her since.  I always look forward to anything new she writes.  She is a writer, editor, and professor and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 for the novel Beloved – a must read and for me a must reread.  However, she really became famous when she won the Nobel Peace Prize in literature in 1993, “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality”. Having read most of her books, Love and A Mercy were the last two left  on my list.  It’s almost done! I finally got around to reading A Mercy.  It was interesting to read about slavery in this way.  Morrison attempted to write about slavery at its beginnings before it became organized and regulated.  She brings together Florens a slave, Lina a Native American labourer, Jacob Vaark, and Rebekkah, Jacob Vaark’s wife, who was sent from the Old World.  These three women are slaves in their own ways and bound by their situations.  Their relationships which begins as unified and solid almost like a “family” slowly but surely deteriorates and becomes rash, desperate, and unkind.  The place is the New World in the 17th century at the beginning where everything is wild and up for grabs by all different nationalities.  The story is told in first and third person and is not easy to understand but by the third chapter things become clearer.

I think Morrison was trying to show that slavery wasn’t always connected to the hatred of the black man and that many people had slave-like status in the New World in which men and women were trying to survive.  I must admit I enjoyed the second half of this book a lot more than the first half.  I felt disconnected from the characters and I missed the in-depth characterization that Morrison usually does.  Maybe this was done on purpose to accentuate these very different people coming together.  In my opinion, I think this book was too short.  I did enjoy reading the connections between the  characters and the way the connections were made(skillfully done), although it’s not a joyful read.  Once I started to get into the book it seemed to fly by and I was looking for more and then “pouf” it was over.  It’s about 160 pages and beautifully written, as always.  Nevertheless, I wouldn’t suggest this title to someone who has never read Morrison.  I would say start with The Bluest Eye or Sula and then work your way through Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Paradise, and of course the crème de la crème BelovedBeloved is not an easy read but it’s all worth it in the end.  It’s one of my favorites and I need to reread it.  I say check out A Mercy if you’re a Morrison fan.  I give it three and a half stars.  I don’t hate it but it’s not in my top favorites of Morrison.  I’ll have to hurry to read Love, since I read somewhere that she has a new novel coming out in May called Home.  It looks intriguing.