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The Ties That Bind: A Memoir of Race, Memory, and Redemption [Kindle Edition]

Bertice Berry
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $11.99
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

When novelist Bertice Berry set out to write a history of her family, she initially believed she’d uncover a story of slavery and black pain, but the deeper she dug, the more surprises she found. There was heartache, yes, but also something unexpected: hope. Peeling away the layers, Berry came to learn that the history of slavery cannot be quantified in simple, black-and-white terms of “good” and “evil” but is rather a complex tapestry of roles and relations, of choices and individual responsibility.

In this poignant, reflective memoir, Berry skillfully relays the evolution of relations between the races, from slavery to Reconstruction, from the struggles of the Civil Rights movement and the Black Power 1970s, and on to the present day. In doing so, she sheds light on a picture of the past that not only liberates but also unites and evokes the need to forgive and be forgiven.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Berry's first novel, Redemption Song, a contemporary love story unfolds as a pair of young strangers share reading the only extant copy of a slave narrative, the work of a woman who experienced deep love for a fellow slave and savage treatment from her owner. When I named the evil slave owner, Berry explains in this memoir, referring to her novel, I gave him the name of the man who owned the [Delaware] plantation that my family had lived on. Berry's mother had told her that Granddaddy said John Hunn was a good man, but Berry met such reports with utter disbelief. Her memoir is an act of contrition toward the man whose name I tried to tarnish as well as a journey of self-discovery and self-education as she uncovers the historical Hunn—indeed, a good man.... a Quaker who risked life and limb in the fight for abolition and the southernmost conductor of the Underground Railroad. Berry weaves abolitionist history with autobiography (her single mother's struggle to raise a family of seven children; her own finding a way out of poverty through education). Berry's competently researched book, with its sprinklings of history, folklore and scripture along with a motivational thrust (We are all born with a purpose, a journey that must be completed), provide an accessible, readable introduction for others saddened... that none of this history had been made part of my education. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Berry explores her personal journey of broader racial understanding since she wrote the novel Redemption Song in 2000. Despite her mother’s stories to the contrary, Berry insisted on portraying an evil slave master based on a real man, John Hunn, who owned the farm where her great-grandfather worked. When she learned that Hunn had actually helped runaway slaves, Berry was forced to reexamine many of her ideas on race, acknowledging a race pride that had evolved into arrogance and an arrogance that had evolved into exclusion. Berry ponders the long journey from slavery to emancipation and the notion of freedom as something that is mental and emotional as well as physical. Interspersing her family’s history with that of the broader African American population, Berry writes of getting past the bitterness of poverty and racism to appreciate the complexities of American slavery and the need to present more nuanced and balanced portraits of race relations. --Vanessa Bush

Product Details

  • File Size: 178 KB
  • Print Length: 226 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0767924142
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (February 3, 2009)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001RS8L5U
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #469,416 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Righting a Wrong and Finding Oneself February 12, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In her latest novel, The Ties That Bind: A Memoir of Race, Memory, and Redemption, she writes "When we remember our ancestors and their stories, we light a pathway for our own journey to spiritual, emotional, and intellectual freedom." I think this novel is a cathartic journey for Berry as she attempts to reconcile the maligning of a man's character and name and encourage readers to heal through forgiveness and encouragement.

She opens with references to an earlier work, Redemption Song, in which a minor character, John Hunn, was a mean and hateful slave owner. The name was usurped from childhood stories told by her mother in which John Hunn owned the land that her great-grandfather worked in Delaware. Although her mother described Hunn as "good white folk," for years Berry imagined John Hunn as a stereotypical, tyrant; a powerful landowner holding her great-grandfather (a free man) in a serf-life, forever-in-debt sharecropping situation. It is not until years later, on her mother's deathbed that Berry experiences a type of epiphany which led to the publication of the novel. Through her mother's oral and written histories and her social and genealogical research, she validates that John Hunn was indeed the best kind of folk: an abolitionist, a conductor on Underground Railroad, a Quaker minister who repeatedly risked his life, and eventually lost his family's fortune helping the enslaved escape to freedom. This novel unequivocally reverses the misrepresented (negative) image of John Hunn as depicted in Redemption Song.

She parallels her quest for Hunn with a reexamination of her mother's life and ancestors and a recollection of candid and sometimes painful memories from her own childhood.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a good read October 24, 2009
Format:Hardcover
I usually read heavier non-fiction but I picked up this memoir at the library on a whim and it's been an enjoyable read. She gives great glimpses into the life of a poor black girl who picked herself up. I love her faith in God, her love and forgiveness, and her inspiration when you read about all the times she was stomped on by life. Also delves into some interesting stories from American slavery.

My favorite observation in the book: "When I hear people talk negatively about women who have had children by more than one man, I know that they don't understand that for many of these women, the men who fathered their children were the only men they had planned to be with. In their hearts and minds, each one was to be the last."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Personal Story April 13, 2009
Format:Hardcover
At times I felt I was prying by turning the pages as Beatrice Berry tells the story of her life. She shows, through her feelings, and those later expressed by her mother, how poverty and the attitudes it engenders breeds abuse.

Ms. Berry's mother, like many other single mothers was looking for love and Beatrice gives us a sketch of how this played out. She also gives us a sketch of how education lifted her from the poverty and its resulting abuse. When her mother quit drinking and was able to reflect on her life, a dialog was possible. The dialog led to a more realistic assessment of her life and the forces, both black and white that shaped it.

She becomes aware that John Hunn, the man she thought was the owner of her family, was an abolitionist with whom her family worked both agriculturally and on the Underground Railroad. This inspired research, new thinking and a new attitude.

This book is helpful because of its honesty. While it is sketchy, the sketch is enough, like the stranger on the airplane who by sharing their life enriches yours.
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4.0 out of 5 stars VERY BINDING INDEED July 31, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ms Berry writes an excellent story. I enjoyed this book very much, though I am always amazed at abused children' ability to some what gloss over their parents abuse. Reading Ms Berry's words are like feeding your literary brain cells
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ties that bind February 22, 2015
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
this order was to have been cancelled as I do not own a Kindel.. so shall be sending it back...
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