Saturday, July 25, 2009

Where Did You Sleep Last Night?

Danzy Senna’s latest work, Where Did You Sleep Last Night?, ratchets up the need for more memoirs by African Americans, people of color, and biracial Americans. As she notes, her mother’s WASP side of the family fill library shelves with their reminiscences, histories, poetry, and learned opinions, but her father’s mother doesn’t even have a complete birth certificate to document her parentage! Even her father’s parentage is open to speculation until DNA and further government immigrant documentation confirm the identity of his father. Certainly anyone who has been adopted can appreciate the difficulties of surmounting bureaucracies, but this story goes further into the secrets and lies that await any family genealogist. At the same time, the search for family history on the Senna side reveals the warmth and cohesiveness of the Southern African American community and extended family. Getting past Senna’s obvious trauma from her parents’ rocky marriage and divorce, one finds the treasured nugget of family love in the center of the story.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

The novel Mudbound by Hillary Jordan raises a lot of questions, not the least of which is when did women start feeling so comfortable writing about war? Our last book group discussion dealt with a Korean War hero in the midst of a friendly fire massacre, the infamous No Gun Ri massacre. In Lark and Termite the author Jayne Anne Phillips, uses a stream of consciousness to depict the situation confronting Sergeant Robert Leavitt while under fire and protecting the lives of women and children from his own American troops. Mudbound follows the building conflict of two psychologically war damaged veterans of World War II, one a white airman and the other a member of the proud 761st “Black Panther” Tank Battalion. Set in the post war Mississippi Delta, this page-turner moves implacably towards tragedy, exposing racism, bigotry, and adultery. Much like a Greek tragedy, each chapter is told through the voices of the main characters. Unlike a Greek tragedy, redemption and love await at the end. This is the author’s first published novel. You will wonder, as you look at her very young face, from where did this story emanate? Mudbound can sit proudly next to The Color Purple and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Check availability of this title in Old Colony Library Network catalog here: