". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Reading Wednesday: The Half Brother, No God But Gain, The American Slave Coast

This is going to be brief, as we're leaving shortly for a date as guest speakers in the African American Studies and Women's Studies programs at Penn State :
4:15pm: Lecture/Book Introduction: “The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry”
216 Willard Building
Introduction – Dr. Courtney Morris
I would have finished The Half Brother (2015) by Holly LeCraw last night, but as these are very long days, my eyes wouldn't stay open.  However, this is the highest accolade I can provide a novel these days after having read tens of thousands of them: I've not skipped anything and will finish reading it to the very end.

The reason I hadn't read finished The Half Brother (besides having had very little to no time for reading anything in the last three weeks) is because this book came to us, thanks to our time at Brown, where the author received his Ph.D.: No God But Gain: The Untold Story of Cuban Slavery, the Monroe Doctrine & the Making of the United States (2015) by Stephen Chambers.  I'm afraid my keen impatience to learn what this history had to teach me topped my interest in how the author of the novel would play her endgame.

There's a lot to say about both these books, both of which are fascinating works, one in the discipline of writing fiction and the other in the discipline of history, but this shall have to wait.  But I can say both are well worth reading for anyone who loves good fiction and good history.

I particularly admire how Holly Le Craw evokes the sense of cyclical timelessness experienced by long time faculty and their family members in very old educational institutions. What goes around dependably goes around seasonally every year, as the students stay the same age year after year. It's nearly that of the annual flooding cycle for the people who live along the Nile. Yet, even as with the Nile, sometimes there is a vast interruption in the cycle.

Stephen Chambers provides an account of something very little noticed until lately, the effect the illegal trans Atlantic slave trade of the 19th century had upon the growth of our own nation's economy. Recall, the importation of Africans to the U.S. was abolished in 1808.  Stephens is also an excellent writer, who makes complicated matters comprehensible to the general reader.  And, trust me, the more one studies any aspect of U.S. history, the more complex one sees it is.

And, in the meantime, for an amusing -- and civil! --argument among commentators in response to a notice of The American Slave Coast, go to "Civil War Talk," here.

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