Recent Reads: Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery

Happy Black History Month y’all! The older I get, the more I appreciate Black History Month and the resilience that African Americans have to survive in a country that was built on our backs, and continues to oppress us systematically. However, that topic is for another post. This post is for lauding the magnificent work that is Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery by Charles Johnson and Patricia Smith.

Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery is an accompaniment to a four part PBS special (that I have yet to watch), and it is truly a masterpiece. It starts at Jamestown and goes through American history to the brink of the Civil War. After I read this book, I realized how whitewashed the perspective of American history was, and it made me want to learn more about America from the views of the minorities, namely African Americans and the indigenous people.

The book itself is an easy read, you pick it up and from the first page it lays down the gravity of the topic that the book is about. Unlike many books that flirt around the history of slavery in a measly attempt to condemn the wrong and yet excuse the remains of its existence, Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery plods straight through. It takes the history that you’ve learned since middle school and flips the narrative. We know about Jamestown, about cash crops, about the Revolutionary War. Washington, Jefferson, Locke, Douglass are all familiar names to us, but there are sides to them that are conveniently glossed over or simply ignored in the history books that I’ve seen inside the walls of the American school system.

What Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery does is brilliant, everything is so familiar because it’s American history told chronologically, so as part of the brain remains in neutral territory, remembering what it’s learned over the span of X amount of years another part of the brain is absorbing the new knowledge and meshing it with the old to form a more holistic and complete knowledge of American history.

My favorite part of reading Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery was the short excerpts in the middle of the chapters. Some of them where historically influenced stories that related to the chapter, actual letters written by people of those times, or pictures and portraits of the land and the people. This made sure that the book didn’t read like a textbook, and it was very enjoyable.

This book does include a lot of facts, but it is to be read as a narrative and not so much as something that discusses slavery statistics in great detail. As a non-fiction, it does it’s job recounting history and showing how this country thrived on the backs of slavery. But do not expect to read this book and become an expert on colonial America. Many of the sources used are primary source, and are not scrutinized and picked apart, which I liked.

Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery is a book that has influenced the way I see myself as a black woman in America. It has exposed the gaps in my knowledge of history from a perspective that wasn’t written by the winner. It points out the flaws in the Constitution, it doesn’t shy away from the fact that the same men that are praised for defending life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness  are the same men that snatched those very ideals away from hundreds of thousands of people.

We clearly are still facing the effects of slavery today. Systematic racism is real. Mass incarceration is real. Gerrymandering and red-lining is real. Microaggression is real. There are so many problems that the African American community is facing because of the fact that America was built with a system of oppression, and we haven’t done enough to resolve it. Just because the slaves were “given their freedom” doesn’t mean that they were free from the violence, from the racism, from their place of disadvantage. The land that they toiled on, remained in the hands of their oppressors. With little access to funds or an education a whole race of people were slaves to a different system.

Everyone should read Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery. It is truly a masterpiece, and beautifully twines together the history we are taught and the history that many tend to forget.

 

xo

Chid

Recent Reads: Velocity

Before winter break started, a few of my staff members and I went on a short day adventure. We went out to have lunch, shopped around a little bit and then stopped at Half-Priced Books. I got to pick up a couple of books to read over the break, one of them being Velocity by Dean Koontz.  I was a little surprised after reading that I enjoyed it so much, because I’m more a fantasy type girl, think Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. However, I’ve been going through a lot of series recently, and I wanted something that I could pick up and put down without selling my soul (I’m looking at you Patrick Rothfuss).

So I picked up a cheery looking yellow book and turned to the back to see a synopsis and this is what I read:

If you don’t take this note to the police and get them involved, I will kill a lovely blond schoolteacher somewhere in Napa County.

If you do take this note to the police, I will instead kill an elderly woman active in charity work.

You have six hours to decide.

The choice is yours.”

What.

Did.

I.

Just.

Read.

I knew then, that I had to take the book home. I had to know how everything would pan out. Already I was thinking about the moral implications of the request. Inaction is not an option, or rather inaction is an option that will still lead to someone’s demise. Action, will also lead to another person’s downfall. Who is to say which life is worth saving? All of these thoughts ran around my mind as I scanned the first few pages.

The main character Billy is extremely ordinary, he’s had his share of hardships, his fiancée is in a coma and he’s a bartender. One day he finds a note on his windshield with a deadline and an impossible ultimatum that turns his life upside down.

As time goes on, the notes continue, the deadlines are shorter, and Billy’s life turns more into a fast paced horror movie. With nothing but his wits he has to figure out who is tormenting his life, and ending the lives of others. The pressure is on as he is given the choice to choose the psychopath’s victims, as he himself becomes a victim to the cruel mind of the killer.

While reading the book, I couldn’t help but think about what I would do in such a situation. Knowing that even if I decided to do nothing, that dire consequences would ensue. I think Koontz was brilliant in his plot and the added sense of urgency. In real life, even inaction is a choice that has consequences, typically however they do not include deciding who a psychopath kills though.

Every detail is flawlessly sewn together, and I didn’t even guess who the killer was until late in the book.  Velocity is a page turner that you can’t put down. With each chapter that passes, the stakes are raised and you just have to keep reading to find the resolution. Velocity is a thriller that makes us question your own morality and how you view the world. Not everything is as it seems.

xo

Chid

Recent Reads: Gone Girl

I’ve never been so emotionally scarred by a book than when I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and it was wonderful. Truly, truly wonderful.

So, the plot of this novel turned movie is that a woman goes missing, and who else is the prime suspect other than her husband? Flynn takes us on a spindling path of twists and turns and you never really know when it will end until the very last page of the book.

I remember reading the book and having to put it down so that I could wrap my head around what was going on. All of the characters in Gone Girl are so complex and well developed that its hard to imagine Flynn plucking them from her mind and putting them onto a piece of paper. Each character is so perfectly flawed and human and the story line flows through their interactions with each other.

Amy, who goes missing in the novel is a puzzle of a character. She has such a life to her, and as I read  I could see her right in-front of me, laughing, crying, plotting. She, in my opinion is the most interesting character in the book because there is so much to her, both written and implied, that there is no possible way for another person to steal her spotlight.

A close contender though is her husband Nick, who spends most of the book being scrutinized by the police, the media, and the neighbors. Trial by media really came through in the book as Nick was grilled time and time again about the whereabouts  of Amy. His character has major flaws, but not any so bad or so outlandish that I wouldn’t believe in the “realness” of him. He displays stereotypical masculine traits, always wanting to be in control of his life and his emotions while trying to be the sole bread winner of his small family. And sometimes the way that he handles situations leave him worse off than he was before.

The thing that hooked me the most was Flynn’s sentences. There were many places where she could have stopped a line and moved on, but she didn’t. I was already at the edge, but those few more words pushed me over. They made my heart stop and my tears fall, seriously. You think that there’s no where else to go, and that you are already at the climax and then you keep reading only to be blown even farther way.

Gone Girl is told through three eyes. Nick’s point of view, Amy’s and Amy’s journal entries. One would think that with all of that exposure, it would be easy to see where the story is going and that everything was at face value, but that can’t be anymore further from the truth. The novel is so complex and there are many factors weaving in and out to make the plot that there’s only one person who truly knows what happened to Amy, and let me tell you, it’s not the reader.

Gone Girl is a wonderful book, and if you are into thrillers or mysteries, then I would definitely check it out!

P.S  If you have any book suggestions, drop a comment below and I’ll read it! Books are my favorite and I always need new reading material!

xo

Chid