I normally can cruise through an engaging novel of this length (248 pages) in no time; I mean sometimes like in a few hours. Not saying that to brag or anything; when I hyperfocus on words, it’s GAME ON. Some people can learn guitar effortlessly…I’m a speed reader. It’s the closest thing I’ve got to a superpower.
About half-way through this book, I realized it would be over soon and I made myself put it aside. For a few days even. I wanted to live with it a bit longer; to stick with this world full of beautiful phrases and potent emotion.
I also needed to think about how I felt about all of it. I often tend towards non-fiction and clean, tidy ways of communicating. I’m the person at work who sends you a to-do email that’s just bullet points. Poetic expression can throw me off, and I’ll admit there were moments with this book that I felt overwhelmed; the language is lush. It twists and flows and doubles back…and it suits the storytelling perfectly. I’ve now reserved every title from my library by the author, Linda Hogan, and am totally looking forward to experiencing more of her work.
This is the book I chose to represent the United States, and it spot-on captures what I hoped it would. Not specifically the story, which is its own self, but the whole frame of What does it mean to be an American? Whose voices get heard? What the hell are we doing?
“…I’m enraged by this world that offers me nothing, yet expects so much of me.”
I was taken aback for a second when this came up. We are a country, in the world, a part of the whole, so of course it’s on the list…
How do you read, and learn, about your own country with the same openness that is so easy to find when looking at other places? This could be a very healthy exercise for me, here in the midst of a unique point in our history.
Not sure yet what path I will take. I’m open to what comes my way.
Location of the USA (image in the Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Flag of the United States of America (image in the Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Map of the USA (image in the Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
For a blogger that is supposed to be all about the books, I really struggle with how to review them. So, I’ve decided not to – no summaries, no deep analysis. Every time I start something like that I bore myself, so I can only imagine how you would feel if I actually posted it.
So. Moving on…
This is a beautiful book.
I’m never going to loan out my copy – you should get one for yourself (the link above will take you right to the author’s website). Ms. Bailey has a gift for storytelling – from her words, I could so easily imagine her family, her home, her surroundings, her culture. READ THIS BOOK.
“When I tell you about the strength of our elders, our views on everything from birth to death and the hereafter, and how I came to fear for my people, I am telling you about who we were and are as a people. I want to hold up our customs and traditions for you to see one at a time, as if each is a bright piece of fabric that I will stitch into a warm geechee quilt you can look at and say, ‘Those Geechee people really did have a different way of living and believing over there.”
“I am a storyteller and my tale is of a people so private our story has never been told before. I tell it now for my people, in hopes it will create a new beginning on this island, a shining dayclean, and for people everywhere: You can survive if you believe in yourself and your culture.
“This is how I remember it. Lean back and listen.”
Tradition says that eating Hoppin’ John, collard greens and cornbread on New Year’s Day will bring a year filled with good luck.
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon bacon drippings
2 cans (about 16 ounces each) black-eyed peas, slightly drained, or about 3 cups cooked black-eyed peas
1 cup chopped cooked ham
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
3 cups hot cooked rice
salt to taste
sliced sweet onion, optional
In a large saucepan sauté chopped onion in bacon drippings until tender. Stir in black-eyed peas, ham, and cayenne pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes; stir in hot cooked rice and salt. Serve Hoppin’ John hot with sliced onion and cornbread.