Cane River by Lalita Tademy was published in 2001 and is based on her family history. It is considered fiction because she has recreated conversations and scenes, but the people are real. She included her genealogy, which I found helpful.
This is the best book I've read so far this year. Tademy is a wonderful writer. The story follows three women in her family beginning in the years of slavery in 1834 and ending in 1936. This is an epic story that I couldn't put down. She follows Suzette, Philomene, and Emily. Each had her own strengths and ways of dealing with the oppression and abuse of slavery and Jim Crow laws. I loved that each woman wanted better for their children and did all they could to make it happen.
During slavery when her family members are assigned a dollar value and are waiting to see if they will end up separated because their owner had died, Tademy brings their anxiety and fear to life. I felt it and was sickened at how they were treated.
This book helped me see how ingrained white privilege is in our culture. She shows the roots of the problem and how it continues today. She shows how her own white ancestors did awful things because of it. She shows what happened to white people who tried to change things for the better after slavery ended. I won't go into details because I don't want to spoil the story for anyone. There were no easy answers and her ancestors were put in impossible situations. Tademy is in no way didactic. She paints the picture and trusts her readers to figure it out.
I was sad to see this book end because I felt attached to her family members. I wanted them to win in every way, even though that wasn't possible in many cases. She comes from a line of incredible and strong women. She is an excellent writer, and I will buy her other books.
"Sometimes while you wait for what you think is better, what is good enough slips away" (380).
Read to a child today even if that child is you.
Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit so their parents can read to them while they grow. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address. We can use both English and Spanish books. If you have a graduate of the NICU, or if you have a baby whose life you would like to honor by donating books to this project, let me know, and I can make a book plate with their name for the books you donate.