Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Things they didn't teach you in American History

The Marrow of Tradition (Penguin Classics)The Marrow of Tradition by Charles W. Chesnutt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I consider myself fortunate to have gone to segregated schools in the Jim Crow South of the 1950's, thanks to teachers who taught us many of the things that were missing from the approved text books. The text books in the Virginia schools would have us believe that "slaves were happy and they sang a lot." And for 200 years of American History, we were missing.

When my late husband and I returned to the South in 1975 and settled in Raleigh, NC, many cities were just catching up to enforcing the Supreme Court decision that outlawed "Separate but Equal" in the public schools. Wilmington, NC had experienced what was being called a riot by 10 activists known as the Wilmington Ten. They were convicted of arson and conspiracy in 1971, and remained in jail until the case was overturned in 1980.

My husband grew up in North Carolina and had learned about Wilmington Riot of 1898 when he attended segregated schools in his home town of Fayetteville, NC. We didn't know whether it was irony or intention that placed Wilmington in the center of racial tension again.

While living in Raleigh, I gradually learned how the Raleigh News & Observer through its publisher Josephus Daniels played a role in the Riot of 1898. His white supremacist editorials fanned the flames of racist sentiment in Wilmington, leading to the overthrow of the elected city government in a city that was in 1898, two-thirds black.

On May 17, 1995, The News & Observer Publishing Company was sold , ending 101 years of Daniels family ownership. Orage Quarles, III a black man is now the President and Publisher of the Raleigh News & Observer. Finally, in 2010, under Quarles leadership, the full story of the riot led by white supremacists to end "Negro domination" in Wilmington was published here.

That's a rather long lead in to a book review. The Marrow of Tradition is Charles W. Chesnutt's account of the events that led to the massacre of the black population, the burning of the only black newspaper, and black hospital in the fictional town of Wellington, NC.

Chesnutt was born in 1858 in Cleveland Ohio to mixed-race parents who returned to their hometown of Fayetteville, NC after the Civil War. Chesnutt returned to the North in 1878 to escape the poverty and prejudice of the south.

The Marrow of Tradition captures the spirit of those times, the dialect of the uneducated, the day-to-day struggles of black people trying to make a life of their own, the hatred of the white "aristocracy," and the plotting and planning of would-be politicians to gain a toehold in the political arena.

A sad tale that is well told.

View all my reviews

Friday, August 26, 2011

Will you still love me...

OK, Baby Boomers, we wrote the songs.

Will you still love me tomorrow?

Will you still need me when I'm 64?

And then there's the one that hasn't been written yet:

Will you still love me when I don't know who you are?

Tinker decided one of my bookcases was falling down from overload. After he repaired it, he said I needed to get rid of some of the books to make space for the photo albums. We have photos from every vacation, cruise, roadtrip, family occasion we have had since we got married in 2002. After we went digital, we took hundreds of pictures of everything and shared them with our friends on the internet. Then we printed about 15% of them using one of the online photo services like KodakGallery or Shutterfly...whichever one is having a sale when we need one.

After I got all the albums labeled and shelved, I started wondering what we would ever do with all those prints. They're nice to have when friends come over and ask about our travels...better to look at the prints than have them go with us up to our office and look at the computer screen.

Then I thought about my dear sister Laverne. LaVerne is 85 years old and has dementia. I hesitate to use the A-word as it seems like a sentence for my future health as well.

Anyway, LaVerne and her husband Goody traveled all over the world when they were able, and now they have a collection of photo albums. When I visited with LaVerne on one of those days when she didn't remember that Goody was her husband, I pulled out one of her photo albums and she started remembering events from those trips. Then she asked, "Why is it that every time I turned around, Goody was there too?" She turned the page and said, "There he is again."

Sometimes you just have to laugh to keep from crying.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Silver Sparrow

Silver SparrowSilver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A few lines from one of my favorite songs from the Temptations:

Hey Mama, is it true what they say,
that Papa never worked a day in his life?
And Mama, bad talk going around town
saying that Papa had three outside children and another wife.
And that ain't right.

That's what I always heard it called, "outside children."

Tayari Jones' novel, the first half narrated by Dana Witherspoon, begins "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist." I always imagined a bigamist as a long distance player who married more than one woman and kept separate families in different cities. James Witherspoon is a rather ordinary man who stutters, and has his outside child with her mother Gwen who both know they are not the "legal" family, whom they can surveill at will as they all live in Atlanta.

Silver Sparrow was chosen by The Today Show as the #1 book for summer. Some critics are praising Tayari Jones as the next Toni Morrison. It's a story with many layers of interpretation. Dana who wants a real family and her half-sister Chaurisse, whom she inevitably meets, wants to be one of the popular girls with best friends. A silver girl like Dana. The story propels them to a sad ending I will continue to analyze for a long time.

View all my reviews

This had to be the longest R&B single ever, at seven minutes. I love the two minute intro with guitar, trumpets and strings. The ensemble piece gives each of the five singers a chance to solo.