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Search tags: set-in-1800s
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review 2019-02-28 02:59
Barracoon (Audiobook)
Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” - Zora Neale Hurston

This is an odd one to rate. This is a short piece and once you get into the narrative, it's a series of interviews that author Zora Neale Hurston did with the last survivor of the last "black cargo" Kazoola, renamed Cudjo Lewis by his master.

 

The interviews start with his life as a free man in Africa and goes over his life from the tribal wars that decimated his country and resulted in him and his other tribespeople being sold into slavery. He tells about his stay in the barracoon, awaiting transport to an unknown country. This was in 1860, long after the transport of human cargo was made illegal - not that this resulted in his freedom of course. Nope, just a fine for his buyers! He tells about his freedom, and how he and his other former tribespeople founded Africa Town, now called Plateau, Alabama. He gets married, they have several children

who all die through illness or violence or accident before their parents.

(spoiler show)

 

He had a fascinating life and getting to hear it through his own words and vernacular was really amazing. Hurston was right to insist that she keep his words intact. It could be difficult to read, but listening to Robin Miles's narration made it very easy to understand him.

 

What fell short for me was everything else. The running time on the audiobook is just under four hours, and only half of that is Cudjo talking about his life. The intro goes on for about an hour and details the accusations of plagiarism on Hurston's initial essay, published in 1928, before the majority of the interviews took place. The last forty minutes are Cudjo telling folktales or about games he used to play as a child. It was nice, but not really what I wanted to listen to. 

 

While I'm glad that Cudjo's words remained intact, I would've also liked for his testimonies to be expanded on with historical data. Being told that everything he said was verified isn't quite enough. We're not even told when he or his wife died. If we can be given an introduction that goes on and on about the plagiarism allegations, we can also get an afterword with supplementary information about Cudjo's life.

 

Still, this is an invaluable piece of history, and a remarkable man who lived through more trials than any one person should.

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review 2019-02-23 19:36
Yellow Crocus
Yellow Crocus - Laila Ibrahim

DNF @ 27%

 

This wasn't actively offensive or anything like that, but it was such a sugary-sweet watered-down version of slavery that I couldn't buy into it. Add on the simplistic writing style and this was a no-go. I was already getting tempted to skim, but decided to DNF instead after learning more about the ending.

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review 2019-02-09 21:01
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Wisehouse Classics Edition) - Frederick Douglass

There are two introductions preceding Douglass's autobiography, one by a journalist William Lloyd Garrison and one by an abolitionist Wendell Philips who knew Douglass. They're not really crucial to the narrative itself and they can easily be skipped, but I did in the end appreciate reading them if only because of their core message which I kept in the back of my head while reading the atrocities that Douglass had to endure while a slave: he had it easy.

 

Baltimore might be in the south, but it's a far cry from the Deep South and the cotton plantations that comes to mind when most people think of slavery. To be "sold down the river" was equated with death because of how much worse slaves were treated in the Deep South, but the slaves in the rest of the south were hardly treated kindly. There are instead degrees of cruelty.

 

Douglass details his life growing up in Maryland, the various masters and slave bondsmen he served, how he learned to read and write and use that to his advantage and how that knowledge also made his enslavement that much harder to deal with. He describes the abuses and murders he witnessed in his young life and some of the whippings he endured himself. He's unflinching, eloquent and starkly honest about it, and his observation of the hypocrisies of the southern "Christians" who were Christian in name only but not in deed.

 

He doesn't give any details of his escape, citing the desire to keep those details from the slave hunters who would use that information to capture other slaves running for freedom. He even admonishes some of the Underground Railroad participants who were so proud of themselves they bragged about their deeds, thus endangering the very people they were supposed to be helping to save. (Why does there always have to be people like that?) There are a few details of his escape here, along with more details of his life after arriving in New Bedford, CT, and coming to the notice of the abolitionist party.

 

He wrote a couple other autobiographies, and I hope to find time to read them one day. 

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review 2019-02-05 04:05
The Color Purple
The Color Purple - Alice Walker

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”

 

I still remember the first time I saw the movie The Color Purple. It was at home, when it was on TV, and I was probably around 7 or 8. I only understood about half of what was going on, but it spoke to me. Celie's love for her sister Nettie and her strife living with Mr and her friendships with Sofia and Shug, all being filtered through Celie's open and loving heart caught hold of my own heart.

 

It wouldn't be until my late teens I finally read the book and fully comprehended everything that went over my head years earlier, and to reread it now nearly two decades later I see the themes here in a way I couldn't back then. But at the heart of it, it's still that same story of self-discovery, of love triumphing over hate - if not injustice - and learning to be comfortable in your own skin, learning to listen to your heart and the hearts of those around you. It's learning that even when you lose all hope, there's still more hope left to discover, that bad things will happen but good things will happen too. 

 

 

The book also examines the racism in the deep South that existed after the end of slavery, during the Jim Crow years, but doesn't stop there. It examines, through Nettie and her missionary work, how it also tore apart the African tribes at the start of the slave trade and continues to damage it to the present day. It doesn't let anyone off the hook. It examines the struggles of people of color, and especially women of color in a time when no one cared about them. 

 

It could be a very depressing book with all the issues it tackles, not just racism and gender inequality but also rape, incest, injustice, domestic abuse and cheating - nearly everything I don't like reading about all in one book. But from the POV of Celie, as she prays to God and later writes to her long-lost sister, the story flows with a strange mixture of innocence and knowing that helps sooth over what would otherwise be very difficult passages to read.

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review 2019-01-26 03:23
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Audiobook)
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Michael Prichard,Jules Verne

Wow. Captain Nemo be cray-cray.

 

And he must be mega rich to have the Nautilus built. And super genius to figure it all out in the first place.

 

So like I said, cray-cray. :D

 

All the numbers and "math" thrown around over this vessel was rather ridiculous, but the action was fun and the ordeal that Dr. Aronnax, Ned Land and Aronnax's servant have to endure being imprisoned on the Nautilus by Nemo, who is so in love with his independence living under the sea that he can't fathom letting them go free lest they tell anyone else about it, was intriguing. I felt especially bad for Ned Land who, as his name suggests, rather prefers hard earth under his feet. 


Still, the story tended to meander and then the ending kind of peters out. There's also the adventure on the island of Paraguay (I think?) with the "hostile natives" that doesn't age well at all. 

 

I liked the narrator, Harlan Ellison, for the most part but I did think he performed a little too much, which is not something I tend to complain about. I just wanted him to calm down a little during the action scenes and not be quite so awed by the discoveries Aronnax made while on the Nautilus.

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