Thursday, June 14, 2007

40. "Red River" - Lalita Tademy


I'm going to admit something that may initiate some mud-slinging - I am tired of reading about slavery. The scars from whips have too many descriptions - like branches, trees, spider webs, knobs. The stories are too similar - lost husbands, wives, sons, daughters... sold or raped or both.

This attitude stuck in my mind as I plunged into Red River. It is called a novel, but Tademy has thoroughly researched her family history, so she actually exhaled and brought life into photos and newspaper clippings enclosed in the pages.

A story about her family following slavery. Ho hum. A story about her family and their roles in the Colfax "Rebellion" (really a massacre) - enough to pile a load of bricks upon my chest. I felt like I couldn't breathe when I read her portrayal of this historical stand-off between blacks protecting their Republican sheriff and judge and white jackasses ignoring Reconstruction. It physically hurt to read this.

But... and isn't there always a but? Tademy split the book into two parts. After the shocking story of the massacre, she tried to tie up the loose limbs of her family tree. While this may have been extremely interesting for her, it felt somewhat at odds to the powerful first half. The Tademy family did a lot for education in Colfax. Reading the meandering details of who married him and birthed her and died because - it pulled the power away from the first half.

So, my recommendation is to read the first part. I would rate that 4.5 on my 5.0 scale. On a whole?

2.5 out of 5.0 Red Raiders.

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