Tuesday, October 18, 2016

News of the World

News of the WorldNews of the World by Paulette Jiles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Awesome little book of 209 pages. It reminded me a bit of True Grit, except that Jefferson Kyle Kidd is not a drunkard. When we meet him, he has lived through three wars and has reached his seventies. His new "job" has made him a reader of newspapers and journals from all over the world. He earns his living from the coins he receives from the people who gather in various masonic lodges, churches, etc. to listen to Kidd's reports of News of the World. At one of his stops he is offered a fifty-dollar gold piece to return an ten-year-old orphan to her remaining relatives near San Antonio. She is the only survivor after Kiowa raiders slaughtered her parents and sister, leaving a little blond-haired girl to be raised by the Kiowa.

It's a long trail from Wichita Falls to San Antonio, but Kidd takes the job of transporting Johanna, who has lost understanding of the English language, to her relatives, who are German. Johanna has spent four years as a Kiowa, and at first she tries to run away back to them. Over the months of their journey, Kidd learns from Johanna, and Johanna learns from him. She learns some English and Kidd learns the ways of the Kiowa. "All animals are food, except for horses."

Kidd continues his readings along the four-hundred-mile journey, his only income. They must watch for thieves, Comanches and Kiowas. Johanna proves how resourceful and feisty she is and develops an attachment to "Kep-dun" Kidd.

No spoilers here, but the story will tear at your heart.

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Monday, September 5, 2016

The Underground Railroad

The Underground RailroadThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Colson Whitehead is one of the novelists whose books I have been meaning to read, but I couldn't quite pin down his genre. Besides being a Pulitzer Prize finalist, he also has a book about zombies. So when The Underground Railroad appeared (even before Oprah put her badge on it), I decided this was the time for me to read this book.

But did I ever have a "Wayminute" moment. By the time I got into the book I realized this was not the Underground Railroad I learned about during "Negro History Week" in seventh grade from a teacher who ignored the official curriculum and taught us about the way runaways were transported through cellars and hidden in attics to escape to the "free states." What we learned about was the "virtual" railroad. Whitehead's railroad is a physical railroad with a real train and conductors.

The story centers around Cora, an orphaned child whose mother had escaped the Randall plantation in Georgia, never to be seen again. When Cora is older she escapes to South Carolina, where she is given a new name, a job as a housekeeper, and lodging in a dormitory with other young women. This is all through a project financed by the US Government. And I thought zombies were far out.

Cora's nemesis is a relentless slave-catcher named Ridgeway. When she thinks she has gotten away, there he is again, ready to return her to Georgia.

There are some fascinating twist and turns throughout the story, some giving real hope for Cora.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016


HomegoingHomegoing by Yaa Gyasi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book, but because I had to return it to the public library, I had to copy the family tree at the beginning of the book to help me remember all of the people.

The story takes us from 18th century Ghana, back and forth across the Atlantic to follow the lives of the descendants of two half-sisters, children of "Big Man," the Chief of the Asante. The chapters go back and forth from one side of the family tree to the other, from Ghana to the U.S. and back so that we see history unfold for slaves in the U.S. while the wars between tribes direct the slave trade from Gold Coast to the Americas.

We read of the migration of former slaves to the North, to Baltimore, Harlem and beyond. To the convict leasing system in the coal mines. To the impact of heroin addiction, the war on drugs.

On the African side of the family tree, we read of James Richard Collins who changes the path of the Chief by marrying for love. Each chapter is a new story taking us closer to the present time.

The Author was born in Ghana, but grew up in Alabama. The book was well-researched to give the reader a full understanding of the history on both sides of the Atlantic. An awesome task.

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