Review: Kindred

This book had me wanting to slap a lot of people. Mind you, I’ve only slapped one person in my life. If I’ve already committed to the action by thinking about it, this a significant increase. I also posted this review to everywhere but my blog so far, which is not the usual order. Now everything is upside down.

Book description:

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

Review

After reading the first chapter and rolling my eyes a little, I’m thinking Dana will save this white kid and he’ll love her and be a good person and all that jazz. Yeah, no…I got a kick-in-the-pants surprise.

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Review: Photographs of October

Photographs of october

There’s something about the candid thought process of the main characters that I really love, and by the time I got a couple chapters in I couldn’t put the darn thing down.

Meticulous research, wonderful levels of suspense, thrilling and perfect slaughter…

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Review: Remembrance by Rita Woods

Remembrance arrived on my doorstep when the COVID-19 lockdown started. It came with some goodies that make my first couple weeks feel a whole lot better.

Remembrance, coffee, and a mug

Because I gave up coffee a while ago I only had my dad’s coffee filters (for when my parent’s visit) and used a rubber band to hold it in place while the hot water did its thing. It’s only redneck if it doesn’t work, right? Or did I get that wrong…I don’t know. But my patience was rewarded with some amazing coffee in a beautiful mug made by awesome women of Papillon.

Anyway, on to my thoughts.

Book description

Remembrance…It’s a rumor, a whisper passed in the fields and veiled behind sheets of laundry. A hidden stop on the underground road to freedom, a safe haven protected by more than secrecy…if you can make it there. 

Ohio, present day. An elderly woman who is more than she seems warns against rising racism as a young nurse grapples with her life.

Haiti, 1791, on the brink of revolution. When the slave Abigail is forced from her children to take her mistress to safety, she discovers New Orleans has its own powers.

1857 New Orleansa city of unrest: Following tragedy, house girl Margot is sold just before her promised freedom. Desperate, she escapes and chases a whisper…. Remembrance.

Review

Full disclosure: I have never really enjoyed supernatural or fantasy elements in my historical fiction. I also dislike most alternative history. I could not get into The Underground Railroad (by Colson W.) no matter how badly I wanted to. But Remembrance caught my eye. Here’s why: Woods uses an element (voodoo) that is reasonable for the time, but still markedly different than usual alternatives to history. In other words, it’s unique but not ridiculous.

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Review: This Tender Land

This Tender Land

This book came to me at a perfect time. I was trying to figure out why I so disliked a different book featuring a traveling group, and found the answer in a few things This Tender Land did right. But first, here is a description of the book right from Good Reads:

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Who is Joaquin Murieta and Why Had I not Heard of Him?

Joaquin Murieta's drawing
Do we even know if he had a wild eyed look?

It’s a real question. Why is this bandit, who terrorized people throughout 1850s California, a new discovery for me? Murieta is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. He hides behind the tale of Zoro. He lived on somewhat fictionalized in plagiarized magazine and radio serials. Countless westerns used his life as a model for their honorable bandits. But he himself is lost to time.

Did I not pay attention in school? Did I simply miss a museum display? Are the street names I pass every so often just generic? Is Rancho Murieta named after him? That would be ironic; a gated community named for a man who illuded all capture and fences.

I set out on a quest this year to read more books by people of color. I want to know what’s out there and to support their voices. The difference between speaking up for somebody and supporting somebody who is already speaking is a whole nother story, but an important one. And yet I get stuck, stuck in this endless loop of wanting to read really old books. So I bought some books by people who are alive (next on my list) and then I set out to read the 1854 novel The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta by John Rollin Ridge (definitely dead).

What drew me to this book

I studied the political factions of the Cherokee Nation for my writing and I knew a signer of the Treaty of New Echota had a son who wrote a novel. I didn’t care what it was, I wanted to see it, and to see how the events of his life crept into his writing. Ridge’s father knew he would die for signing that treaty and he did, supposedly right in front of the children, so you know…already there is tension.

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Book Reviews: Necessary Sins and Lost Saints, from the Lazare Family Saga

What does over two decades worth of research get you? An artful and brilliant series with the ability to put the reader right into the past. I have the privilege of receiving advanced reader copies before each release so far, and it’s hooked me from the first page. Since this is a saga meant to be read in order, I’m putting my reviews of the first two books here in order.

Necessary Sins

As soon as I read the first chapter, I knew this book would tear at my heart and make me want to reach through the pages to slap a couple of characters. The author dives right into the mind and life of each character, period prejudice and all, giving a vivid experience of the times and culture. Heroes are conflicted. Villains live up to their labels. Every scene, character, and phrase drives the story forward with relentless irony. 

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Book Review: Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier

I don’t want to give away the ending but the beginning words say it all: “There is no scatheless rapture.”

13 moons

The main character remembers his life as an orphaned, bound boy to a merchant who trades with the Cherokee Nation pre-removal from their homelands. As he adjusts to his new situation, he learns a great many things: who to avoid or trust, how to communicate, how to show respect, how to keep his horse from being stolen, the value of each item in trade instead of money, random coins and their values, etc. He also gained an adopted Cherokee father and learned a great deal about love and loss. I’d say that really, the entire book is about value, whether it’s people, relationships, lost love, or land. It’s also about growing up and growing old, and how perspective changes with age.

Frazier twists in good humor, foreshadowing, difficult decisions, contested stories, and masterful settings with ease. It is from a white boy’s perspective, regardless of who Will spent his life with and how his views meshed with his new family, and the author makes that clear within the story.

Some surprises

I found a couple of surprises in the style that I am comfortable with now, but wasn’t sure about at first. Every single thing I might consider an oddity has a specific purpose and just…works.

  • There are no quotation marks for dialog. At first this bothered me, but I thought about it. There is an indication that somebody has started speaking, and after that, do I care? Not really. It just kind of flowed.
  • I didn’t notice the shift between past and present tense until the end.
  • Despite a few reviews criticizing details gotten wrong, etc., I didn’t care. Yes, there were a few things I’d researched extensively and could spout off a thing or two about what “actually happened”, but in these cases did the average person in the POV character’s situation know any better? Probably not. Hindsight is 20/20, and history buffs have a lot of hindsight to help them pick apart fiction books.

I’d never read a Charles Frazier book before, and I think this one is a great first! I bought it to read in tandem with the section printed in Cherokee syllabary (Tsogadu Nvdo), but I realized I couldn’t wait that long to read it, so I will turn back when I can understand more Cherokee words.

Book Review: Cherokee Editor

Most who knew Boudinot described him as a sensitive (in a good way) and caring man. Many later described him as a traitor to his nation. After reading this collection of writings, along with Perdu’s notes, I see that he had simply lost touch, if he even had it, with the average citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

Cherokee Editor: The Writings of Elias Boudinot, edited by Theda Perdu

Early Years

He was born as “Buck” Watie in Oothcaloga (present-day Calhoun) Georgia. Those first years went by very different from his father’s growing up years. The Watie family departed from matrilineal traditions by using his father’s name, and lived and worked very individualistic lives instead of collective lives traditionalists cherished. He and his cousins John and Nancy Ridge attended a mission school, and further distanced themselves from traditions.

Not long after the first mission school, he met a man who impressed him very much, Continental Congressman Elias Boudinot. The elder Boudinot was also the American Bible Society president and pushed the theory that American Indians were one of the lost tribes of Isreal. Buck Watie took Boudinot’s name, not an uncommon practice of the day.

Boudinot joined people of many tribes and nations from all around the world and attended the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, CT. He met his first wife and caused a great stir about marrying out of his race, to point of death threats and his fiance being burned in effigy by her own brother. He concluded that no amount of assimilation would make his nation equal in the eyes of the whites he thought he could trust.

Political Years

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