Two Novels to Start Black History Month

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This year I’ve chosen to start February with a look at the world of segregated life thru the lives of a white family with an African American maid and a black family impacted multiple ways by the society in which it lives.

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I was skeptical–would it just be a rip-off of The Help? No! Yes it is about a family and their African American maid in the segregated South of 1954. Yes, it does show the callous disregard for the maid’s feelings and the family’s often unquestioning acceptance of the same. And, yes it shows completely degrading behavior towards an African American woman–an eerily real and unforgettable scene. Why would I choose such a Black History Month? Because you learn about injustice thru the eyes of the daughters. Because it is families like this that enabled the system to continue. Otherwise it’s just the story of a family intertwined with a story of the mother and children and maid on a road trip from Charlotte to Pensacola for a vacation with the mother’s brother and the unexpected outcome of that trip. Instead, this debut novel offers so much more than just another addition to the road trip cannon. The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew.

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You know it’s an Oprah book when babies die and women are deceived and done wrong and we haven’t even gotten to page 40 yet. This is not so much a novel as a series of stories of the same family. Some stories resonated with me more than others. What makes this story compelling is both the true-to-life  sociological study of the fictional  family provides and the well-drawn characters and believable dialogue that tells their tale of one African-American family in Philadelphia after the years of the Great Migration. But, as another reviewer put it, the structure keeps the book from gaining the correct momentum. In spite of this trouble with cadence, the profiles of each family member are vividly drawn and the disconnected structure is reflective of the disjointed lives they led.  The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis.

 

What books are you reading–or would you recommend–for Black History Month?

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7 thoughts on “Two Novels to Start Black History Month

  1. Kim@Time2Read

    I’ve had The Twelve Tribes of Hattie on my list for awhile. I haven’t read it yet, though. I’d not heard of The Dry Grass of August until know, but it certainly sounds like it is worth adding to my list!

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  2. I would normally say people should go for Roots, but there’s about to be a new TV adaptation. Small Island opens your eyes to so many details. Or go to your library, look for their display and pick off something you’ve never heard of …

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