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Book Review Essay - My Jim, by Nancy Rawles

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Loresa D. Matarazzo 21st c. African American Literature November 3, 2005 ENG 350:445 -- Dr. Evie Shockley Book Review Essay My Jim, by Nancy Rawles There is much literature on the subject of and/or set during the era of slavery in America, and our archives brim with books describing antebellum life. Except for slave narratives, however, there is scarce literature written from the slaves' point of view. To date, novels, in particular, have failed to depict the lives of slaves accurately or in a way that even approaches the true accounts of slave narratives. Further, most novels have provided us with little authentic information of the inner life of slave communities and even less about the personal lives of slaves-their everyday horrors, their loves, hopes and incredible strength in transcending evil. The majority of books set in the time of American slavery present us with a white person's point of view, an incomplete and skewed version of the facts that some would say sits well with the comfort level many of us have had for the subject. Gone With the Wind is a prime example of a largely romanticized representation of slavery from the white slave-owners' perspective, and it does not include a true reflection of African American experiences before or after the Civil War. Yet, a few authors have attempted to expose the myth perpetuated by such works as Gone With the Wind-namely, Margaret Walker's response to it, entitled Jubilee, and Alice Randall's parody of the book, called The Wind Done Gone. ...read more.


The novel takes us back to Jim's young life in bondage, tells us how he struggled for freedom and shows his nearly unbearable suffering over being torn from his family. Through Sadie's reminiscence, we learn how Jim and his family coped and endured inhumane treatment including horrendous physical, emotional and s****l abuse, backbreaking work and various other human indignities. It is a powerful, horrifying and, at times, nearly unbearable story to comprehend, and one that must be told. In contrast to the lighthearted manner in which Huckleberry Finn presents us with the unthinkable horrors of slavery, Sadie's story does not spare us the brutal details. I am of the opinion, however, debatable as it may be, that the ironic manner in which Twain imparts this information is an intentional device to call attention to the brutality of the situation. Still, Sadie's story is far more effective in this regard. She shows us mothers who would rather kill their babies than feel the agony of having them torn away from them for sale or for the masters' s****l playthings. Indeed, after Jim's father was murdered, Jim's mother fought to keep him from being born. "All the time Jim's mama carrying him she crazy with grief. Aint want to give Mas that baby. She do everything she can to stop Jim coming...She fight with Mas and the driver. Trying to get them to beat that baby out of her...But Mas make them dig a hole for her belly. ...read more.


The most profound description of this sad and ironic view of freedom is found on page 140 of Rawles' novel: When freedom finally come I aint feels it right away...Troops at the house...Colored soldier read us a letter bout freedom. We packs up some food and water and joins the lines moving north. We walks and walks. None of us gots no money to ride the steamer we used to ride as slaves. We free so we gots to walk. Folks think freedom gonna look one way but it look all kind of ways. Sometime it look like slavery. Folks think freedom something like a button or a tooth. Something you can hold onto aint gonna break. But you can break a button with a tooth and break a tooth with a button. And both of them real easy to lose. Even when you know right where they drop you still gonna look and cant find them. If freedom a place it's a place you pass through. There are many remarkable aspects to My Jim, not the least of which is the way that Rawles intersperses the objects that Sadie is sewing into Marianne's quilt throughout the novel so that we become filled with what forms the meaning of her life. Ultimately, love, freedom, spirituality all live in our hearts, and if not there, truly cannot be found. The beauty and the miracle of Rawles' novel is how Sadie kept all of these in her heart under the most horrifying and oppressive conditions. ?? ?? ?? ?? 2 ...read more.

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