April 17, 2012

Round Ten—Year of Reading at Your Mercy, Plus a question for you…

Here is a quick post to announce, rather belatedly, pick #10 for my Year of Reading at Your Mercy. This time, David drew “Facebook” from the caterpillar, so I polled my stupefyingly vast array of (220) Facebook friends for recommendations. Ten of them played along, and now, after consulting a random number generator, I’m reading the second recommendation I received, Enchantment by Orson Scott Card. Barbara Kistler Martin, Children’s Pageant Director Unparalleled, put it in “the hat.” (Below are the other picks I received.)

Actually, I’m almost finished reading Enchantment, but I’m not going to say much about it yet. I still have to write about the experience of reading Genius of Place, pick #9. I will say, however, that in this case, you can’t judge the book by its cover. (I hear that you never should, but I do it all the time anyway.) I’ll also say thanks to Barbara for leading me to an Orson Scott Card novel again. Ender’s Game is a book I hold dear.

Oryx and Crake
The Night Circus
Memoirs of a geisha
The book thief
Let the great world spin
The Wedding
The trumpeter of Krakow
The color purple
  • Oryx and Crake, picked by my friends Honor AND Carrie (Honor has picked it thrice, now.)
  • The Night Circus, picked by my friend, Erin (It was also picked earlier by Gail, a library patron.)
  • Memoirs of a Geisha, picked by my friend Ranju (for the second time)
  • The Book Thief, picked by my cousin Nancy
  • Let the Great World Spin, picked by my friend, Isabel, who was German exchange student at my high school
  • The Wedding, picked by my friend and former coworker, Dorothy
  • The Trumpeter of Krakow, picked by my friend from college, Haj
  • The Color Purple, picked by my friend and coworker, Penny

OK, so it turns out this isn’t really a quick post. I’m going to sneak in an unrelated question—and one of a completely different nature. I watched most of an episode of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on PBS this past weekend. It is the one with Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon. I never think to seek out this show, but I always enjoy it when I catch it on the air. On this episode, Kyra and Kevin are each informed that one of their ancestors owned slaves. They are each surprised by this fact.

This reaction was common among many of the people I saw discover slave-owners among their family tree when I worked at the county archives. Many people are dismayed when they see evidence that their ancestors owned slaves, even though it was a common enough practice in the early days of our nation. (I discuss this “dismay” a bit in this post on my old blog.) I would bet that this type of reaction often arises from the fact that people, even newbie genealogists, often forget to consider that their personal family history is bound up with the whole of history in general. Genealogically speaking, there is no way to escape the valor of the past, or the shame. All of our family trees have been fed by many and vast waters.

Anyway—in this case, Kyra and Kevin are taken aback by the slave-owning of their ancestors specifically because these ancestors were Northeasterners. (Or at least, that’s the “spin” the show follows.) In tandem with Kyra’s and Kevin’s interviews, Gates visits a high school classroom in Massachusetts to find out if the students there realize that slavery existed in the North as well as in the South. Prior to the visit, he expresses frustration that he hadn’t been taught this fact in high school, and as it turns out, the students he visits are misinformed in the same way.

So my question to you is—Were you made aware as a young learner that slavery in the United States was not practiced solely in the South? I might ponder some and write a longer post on this subject at some point, and I’m curious.


I just wanted to give you my two cents regarding your question. I remember learning about this some time in the 4th or 5th grade, and I seem to recall understanding that there were slaves in the norther states during the American revolution, and that the practice didn’t end until the civil war, although it became unpopular in the region (but popularity is not the same thing as legality). I have to admit I remember this from reading my textbook while I supposed to be listening to a lecture ( for better or for worse this has been a fairly routine throughout my education), so its possible that I either missed some misinformation or assumptions because I was more focused on reading materials than my teacher. Either that or Shelby County selected some bang-up history texts.

by Dorothy on April 25, 2012 at 2:42 pm. #

I also remember understanding from a young age that slavery existed in the north, although unlike you, I have no recollection of specifically gaining that understanding. And I went to school (elementary through high) in three states—West Virginia (on the border of north and south), eastern Pennsylvania (solidly northern), and Tennessee (solidly southern). My curiosity is really piqued by these kids on the show (and Gates himself) not learning this fact through their schools.

by wendy on April 25, 2012 at 5:06 pm. #

Also, after the year is done and you’re at your own mercy again, (if you weren’t going to read all of the picks anyway ;) please consider reading The Wedding, because it has some incredibly interesting commentary on race, wealth, and marriage in the U.S., and it was published in 1942, which makes the scenarios it presents that much more fascinating.

If I ever teach an English class I’m assigning that book.

by Dorothy on April 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm. #

I would love to be in an English class taught by you. After The Wedding, can we critically deconstruct fraggles?

by wendy on April 25, 2012 at 5:07 pm. #