Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons by Ann Rinaldi

In the absence of the Andrea Levy 'The Long Song', this was a last-minute substitution and worked quite nicely as a contrast with "The Book of Negroes'.
There was an immediate difference in the written English - this book concentrating on mainly telling the story and the language coming across as a  bit amateurish- I wasn't surprised then to discover at the end of the book that it was self-published.  That said, the story was interesting as a comparison to the afore-mentioned  BoN, in that the chief protagonist was a slave who was taken from Africa as a young child, old enough to remember bits of their previous lives but young enough to adapt to new customs, become literate and use that to their advantage.
The story of Phillis Wheatley is all the more extraordinary as it was based on an actual person and even allowing for the writer's imagination it highlighted what we now take so much for granted- that coloured people were simply not considered on par with the Human level. I liked the surprise in both books, at the women being able to express their thoughts on paper and influence the Abolitionist Movement.
It was interesting for me that Phillis could not publish her book of poems in the Colony of America as it would be considered offensive and inflammatory so she had to go to breathe the pure air of England and be published in London where she would automatically be freed- smiles- what a crock (of shit) as they say!!

Other reviewers noted the double-edged sword of Freedom for an indulged House-slave and sadly Phillis died in poverty in an unmarked pauper's grave, an ignoble end for America's first Black Poet. At the risk of provoking the entire African community and African Diaspora in the Year of African People- one wonders how their descendants are doing with their Freedoms and whether like poor Phillis they are still subject to the largesse of the liberal/more progressive Whites?

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