Saturday, January 18, 2014

32 Books: Chapter 3: Florida-Georgia Border

After I pick my son up, we race to and through the grocery, fill the tank with gas, and wait for his sister at her school.

He tells me that he didn’t know Morgan Freeman was the president of Africa. 

I choke on my water bottle and nod, and ask him where he got that gem of a fact from. 

Well, it seems his friend D* had seen a movie about a man who just died and he was a very important man and I could I explain why an American was the president of a continent?

I take my time to lead him through the clearest path I can imagine.

I didn’t see the movie, but I think Morgan Freeman plays Nelson Mandela, and it’s South Africa, not Africa.

THAT’s Right! Then who is the skinny guy?

The skinny guy?

Yes. Skinny skinny, Mom, I can’t even explain it. You know him. Who is he?

I shoot in the dark - non-violently - and guess Gandhi.

THAT’s right. What did HE do? I don’t like him.

You like him, I correct. His nonviolent protests inspired Dr. Martin Luther King and played a huge role in the country we have become.

I want to talk more about this good stuff but my son falls silent, already distracted by a book he’d just downloaded. 

Disregarding the fact I really can’t read very well without my glasses, I stick my hand back into the box of books my students have assigned me and pull out whatever one jumps into my hand.

I'm immediately disappointed by it. 

It doesn’t look like a book I would buy. 

The author’s name is printed on an orangy background in a font that is much larger than the title.

 The title tells me nothing.

 It could be romance novel, it could be a murder mystery. It could suck.

Stamped below the title in gold was and award logo was “Winner of the Corretta Scott King Award.”

A sign. Truly.

Sorry Tina Fey. 

Sorry book I almost read first and will definitely read soon. Hello book #1. 

As soon as I get the kids settled at home and start a pot of spaghetti sauce, I curl up on the sofa and fall into the book that I didn’t want to like.

The first page of this 300 page book pulls me into the life of a teenager who is sucked into a series of historical events that lead her through a path of eighteenth century colonial Atlantic history right to the frontier of the Georgia-Florida English-Spanish border.

Two hours later my children want dinner, want attention, want answers to questions that I can’t listen to I can’t get up because I’m reading a horrifying passage about a Simon Legree-like sadistic slave owner using one of his slaves as gator bait.

A few pages later I can breathe again, so I put the book down and take care of their most basic needs but that’s it, that’s all I can do, because I have to return to the eighteenth century and walk through the air castle of a story to see what the next room holds. I finish the book before American Idol comes on and suddenly realize I'm sad to have left that piece of history and come back into the present.

 Anyone who didn’t think they knew about or cared about the experience of free, enslaved and indentured women in the 18th century will absolutely be more interested in it after reading this book.