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Category Archives: African American Lit

Kindred

Not the cover I’d use as Dana mainly wore pants

Dramatic and creative, Octavia Butler‘s Kindred pulled me in from the beginning. A post on Butler’s birthday on The Writer’s Almanac intrigued me. I’d never known of any African American sci fi writers. Science fiction isn’t a favorite of mine but I became curious.

Kindred is a time travel tale centered on Dana and her husband Kevin who get pulled out of 1976 to antebellum Maryland. At the beginning of the story, when Dana’s ancestor Rufus is in danger of drowning as a boy somehow Dana gets pulled into the past to save him for the first time. Imagine a black modern woman saving and eventually having to live on a plantation owned by her white ancestors. Dana’s permitted to work in the cookhouse and works teaching Rufus to read, but she’s not exempt from the horrors of slavery. The the story realizes all the potential for drama and insight that the premise promises.

The book isn’t heavy on the time travel and that’s to its credit. Dana and her Caucasian husband’s trips back in time allow readers to consider the injustice and cruelty of slavery afresh. The power of this novel is the characters and its veracity. I’d definitely read more of Butler’s work. I liked her style, her characters and the surprising ending, which emphasized that no one flees a culture of slavery unscathed.

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Posted by on July 24, 2012 in African American Lit, American Lit, contemporary, fiction

 

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Teaser Tuesday

Rather late, but I’m in the mood to do this today.

Grab your current read.
Open to a random page.
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other Tuesday Teaser participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

From Octavia Butler‘s Kindred:

Carrie and Nigel named their thin, wrinkled, brown son, Jude. Nigel did a lot of strutting and happy babbling until Weylin told him to shut up and get back to work on the covered passageway he was supposed to be building to connect the house and the cookhouse.

From Anthony Powell‘s At Lady Molly’s (Dance to the Music of Time):

Since we have been undergraduates together my friendship with Quiggin, moving up and down at different seasons, could have been plotted like a temperature chart. Sometimes we seemed on fairly good terms, sometimes on fairly bad terms; never with any very concrete reason for these improvements and deteriorations.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2012 in African American Lit, British Lit, classic

 

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Abraham’s Well

Here was Bridget’s review of Abraham’s Well:

I have mixed feelings about this book.

I liked the story presented by this book. I didn’t tire of it and was able to read it quickly.

I appreciated the window into events with which I was barely acquainted. I added to my understanding of the Trail of Tears which the book handled in depth and with believable detail. The descriptions reminded me of a similar forced march portrayed in One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus (a book I have repeatedly recommended and praised).

The language choices used to present the attempts to turn the protagonist into a “breed mother” worked well.

The characterization of Mama Emma’s guilt and denial over her role as a slave keeper rang true as did Armentia’s struggle with her feelings for and expectations of Mama Emma.

Yet, the book is not without its shortcomings.

I never connected on an emotional level with the protagonist.

The inclusion of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, Juneteenth and the Land Rush felt contrived. The last third of the book seemed rushed.

As I read, I occasionally had the feeling that the sentiments or, at least the vocabulary used to express the sentiments, were too contemporary.

The religious message was heavy handed. The multiple chapters dealing with the middle of the night preaching session were overlong.

The book succeeds in some measure on an educational level but, on a story telling level, it hits just shy of the mark.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2011 in African American Lit, historical fiction

 

Abraham’s Well

I just finished my friend, Sharon Ewell Foster’s Abraham’s Well. Since I know Sharon and have enjoyed her books set in modern times, Ain’t No River and Ain’t No Valley this work of historical fiction was a departure. I can’t pretend that my review is unbiased so don’t say I didn’t warn readers.

The story reminds me of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman as it consists of an elderly woman looking back on her life during a significant historical period. Armentia, the main character, is African American and Cherokee. She lives in the 19th (and I suppose early 20th century) experiencing tribal life, slavery, the removal of Cherokee and other native Americans during the Trail of Tears and eventually freedom. It’s the story of an imperfect character, rather than a superhero, finding strength and courage to surmount injustice and hardship. I’m a sucker for such stories.

For me historical fiction succeeds by teaching me and entertaining me and Abraham’s Well does both. Although I’ve read a little about the Trail of Tears and knew that some African American’s are part Native American, I had no knowledge of African American involvement in this chapter of American history. Sharon includes an explanation of why she decided to write about this topic and her family heritage as it relates to the themes of the novel. I found that quite interesting. I could see this making a good movie.

The book reads very fast, as Bridget points out. Bridget’s also right about the chapters on the preaching but there’s probably less church-going in this story than the others I’ve read so I had a different view of that aspect. I didn’t mind it. I realize that Sharon’s fans will be looking for Christian fiction when they decide to read this novel.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2011 in African American Lit, fiction