Beloved is so beautifully written, full of colors, and actual spoken language. Toni Morrison writes so that we can see everything. This can make it a little harder to read for some, but this was my second time reading it and the style and word choice became familiar and easier as I went through.

Beloved tells the story of the occupants of 124 Bluestone Road, a group of runaway and freed slaves connected by a man whose whereabouts couldn’t be confirmed. Within this home, Morrison shows the complexity of slaves’ lives and how it affects them well beyond the borders of the plantation. Sweet Home, the name of the plantation, was a ideal slaves home, but even with education and respect the slaves at Sweet Home realized how separate and poor their lives were and that this was neither their home, nor sweet. When a new overseer arrives, the slaves are treated worse than ever and a pregnant Selme escapes with her 3 children, but leaves her husband behind.

The story of Sweet Home is what connects Selme to her mother-in-law Baby Suggs, whose son, Halle, was able to work for her freedom. Selme and the other slaves at Sweet Home endured more that anyone should and Morrison doesn’t shy away from horrible acts of violence and the dehumanization of the men and women.

At 124 Bluestone Road, the occupants are haunted by the ghost of Selme’s little girl who died shortly after arriving at freedom. Her death and the relationship that Selme has with the surrounding free blacks is complicated and Morrison uses this to talk about the sin of pride and how easily joy can be construed as boastfulness. Its interesting that how the neighbors don’t warn Selme of the encroaching white men, and Baby Suggs believes that it was the punishment that comes from too much pride.

There’s so much in this book to enjoy and learn from. Theres a lot more to be horrified at and learn from. I read this book when I was younger, and again 20 years later. This is something that we need to remember. When you take away someone’s freedom, no matter what else you provide them with, they’ve lost too much.

Important and valuable novel.

Read August 2015



Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred is a tale of a black woman living in 1976 who is transported back to 1815 on a plantation in Maryland where her ancestors are living. Dana is somehow called whenever Rufus, a white child of slave owners, finds himself in a dangerous situation. Dana’s quest becomes ensuring that her ancestors survive the devastation of the plantation and in order to do that she must protect Rufus whenever he calls her back.

Along the way, Dana has to deal with typical time travel dilemmas while dealing with the horrific fate of slavery and the conventions of the time. In order to fit in to the time period while she’s stuck in the past, Dana has to pass for a slave and learn to behave like a slave. All while teaching and learning from her “owner” Rufus and trying to teach him about racial equality and human relationships.

This book is ultimately about slavery and slaves. There are some gruesome scenes which I think are necessary in order to tell the story. Dana has to go through a learning experience with the reader. She, like the reader, knew about slavery, but to witness and be an unwilling participant forces both to face the truth of slavery in a personal way. Butler captured not just what it might have been like to be a slave, but what it would be like to be a mother, a father, a friend under the most horrifying circumstances.

Butler writes very simply, almost as if written as young adult fiction. Her characters and scenes are written simply, but Butler is able to weave a deep undercurrent of emotion that makes the reader hurt with the characters.

This book should be taught in high schools to teach history as well as compassion for each other. It was a horrible story told with the right touch of emotion and history.

Read April 2013