From Publishers Weekly
Soon after former slave Chloe Curry began working as a cook in the Mississippi home of Will Campbell, a former slave-owner, she became pregnant with his child. "She stayed with Will Campbell the rest of his life. And he kept her in his home the rest of his life. With this fact in mind, I can only assume a genuine affection of some depth developed between these two people." In this family history, Chloe and Will's great-granddaughter tries to make sense of their relationship in the context of Reconstruction and its failures. Unfortunately, however, Chloe and Will's 19th-century story, with all of its insights into a larger American history, does not fully emerge until the middle of the book. Descriptions of the author's writer's block, her research difficulties and her anger about the neglect of African-American history bog down the early chapters. Yet Davis (Maker of Saints
) succeeds in conveying the precarious position of blacks in the South after the Civil War and her final chapter on the great Mississippi flood of 1927, in which "the lives of blacks were harder hit than others," has eerie parallels with the post-hurricane flooding of New Orleans—just one example of how important it is to understand this period in our common past. (Jan)
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Starting with photographs and writings left by her grandmother, novelist and playwright Davis traces the "white folks" in her ancestry, finding Scots-Irish cotton planters and Confederate soldiers. Davis' grandmother had been working on a novel about her parents--Chloe Curry, a former slave from Alabama, and Will Campbell, a white planter from Missouri. Davis was able to trace her family through the South to Sierra Leone, uncovering influences of Scots-Irish, African Temne, and American Choctaw. Guided by her own idiosyncratic notions of culture and family, she learned of a long lineage of writers and people longing for self-expression. Davis takes the reader on a genealogical search that is particular for her family but common for African Americans, exploring the myths of kindness and beneficence on the part of slave masters and the tangle of incomplete records that cloud the ability to research slave genealogy. This book will intrigue readers interested in genealogy and a personal view of slavery. Vanessa BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved