Friday, June 18, 2010

Read This Book! -- 'The Long Song' by Andrea Levy

Meltingpot Readers,

You know I went through my love affair with Jamaican writers, well that affair has been rekindled with Andrea Levy's triumphant new novel, The Long Song. Now technically Levy is British born, but her parents are Jamaican and it is her Jamaican heritage that she often writes about in her novels. The Long Song is no exception.

The biggest difference between, The Long Song and Levy's previous work is that The Long Song is a historical novel that takes place during the last years of slavery in Jamaica. But before you role your eyes and shudder at the thought of reading a dry historical novel, take note. The Long Song, much like Dolen Perkins-Valdez's Wench is a personal story, an intimate story, and a story that we really haven't heard until now. Specifically, The Long Song is Miss July's story. July is an immensely likeable, spirited young slave girl who is snatched from her mother ( a field slave) to become a maid in the big house on the sugar plantation.

July narrates her own story at the request of her adult son who is a printer and wants documentation of the life she lived. There's a reason he wants or rather needs this documentation, but I'm not going to spoil the story for you by telling you why.

Besides the fact that Miss July is a wonderful storyteller, filling her narrative with intimate details, plenty of mischief and much humor to sweeten the horror that she lived through, I learned so much about Jamaican history and came to a new understanding of what it meant to "survive" slavery and how that survival was achieved through intelligence and cunning more so than brute physical strength. Believe it or not there is plenty of humor in these pages, a hint of a love story, and a beautiful example of the strength of family ties. Oh and if I said there's an interracial adoption piece to, would you believe me? If I'm lying I'm dying.

To hear more about the research Levy did for the book and about Jamaica's history of slavery, listen to this interview Levy gave on the Leonard Lopate show on WNYC.

My book club will be reading The Long Song for their next meeting. Yes, I picked it. So I'm thinking of serving beef patties and ginger beer for the gathering. I know it's going to be a great discussion. So what are you reading this summer? Any books you're really excited about? Next on my list is Little Bee by Chris Cleve.

Have a great weekend!


1 comment:

Ruth said...

Hi Lori,
Forgive me if you have already covered this book that I'm reading, "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. I'm loving it! I knew it would be interesting stories, from the black women who were the maids in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1950s and 1960s. This book conveys very well, the tension of the situation as they bravely risked everything to contribute to justice and change.

I work in education and am dismayed by the lack of tolerance in many of the students I work with. I dream of a society that identifies itself as a group of Diverse People, with more in common than the differences between them.

"The Help" is compelling. I recommend it!