Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Good Lord Bird

James McBride is better known for his "The Color of Water" but I was thoroughly delighted in his humorous and ultimately poignant telling of historical events of the Free Stater and Abolitionist John Brown and his climactic raid on Harper's Ferry, considered one of the key precursors that helped ignite the War Between the States here in America in the mid 1800's.

It helps that I'm familiar with many of the areas in the parts of the story that occur around home here: rivers, towns, townships, and ghost towns. I could picture the terrain and the times and people. It was consistently funny and historically informing, right down to the meeting with Harriet Tubman in Canada.

Only occasionally did I get a sense of the author struggling to cover historical ground quickly and maintain the facade of spinning an old West yarn, with one too many a "I done heard tell that ... " or similar. But most of the time I did not feel like pulling back the curtain other than to Wiki or Google historical incidents or to look at a map of the east coast story locations I am less familiar with.

I highly recommend this wonderful and fast moving read, but then I've been studying the Bleeding Kansas period with a focus on Lawrence and surrounding areas the past two years and so this work was right in my wheelhouse. And the underlying issues it addresses through humor and hyperbole are a critical foundation to understanding where we came from as a culture and are still highly relevant in putting into context varying widespread racial attitudes in my lifetime, including even today.

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