It's the 27th day of the March Slice of Life Challenge. 31 days of writing. Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.
Picking up my Kindle I went back to reading Sue Monk Kidd's new book: The Invention of Wings. I had borrowed the digital version from the library, my favorite way to get books now, and had waited patiently to go from patron 748 on the waiting list to the one with book. I couldn't put it down last night. The clock went past midnight, but I didn't turn into a pumpkin I just kept reading. One o'clock. Two o'clock. Three o'clock. Finally at 3:30 I reached the end. This is what I love about spring break, I reminded myself; the ability to do crazy things like stay up all night reading.
If you haven't read Kidd's book yet, you should. The author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair does it again in my book (pardon the pun); she wove a story of women's lives nearly impossible to put down. In The Invention of Wings, Kidd shares the story of Sarah a young white judge's daughter growing up with her wealthy family in the south. At age 11, Sarah is given a slave named Hetty, a young girl nearly her age. While Sarah should be excited according to her family and the sad customs of the times, she is not. Even at eleven Sarah doesn't feel it is right to own other people and attempts to set Hetty free. Her parents won't hear of this nonsense.
The story weaves through decades as Hetty and Sarah grow up in the same place, yet in completely different worlds. Across the chapters we learn of Hetty's family, her struggles to maintain ownership of her mind when her body is enslaved, and her quest for freedom. Entwined in Hetty's story is Sarah's as she struggles against the norms of Charleston's society she continually questions. Neither women fits the molds the world has created for them, and both struggle and fight in their own way to find their place. As a reader, I tend to love books with interesting characters and this book did not disappoint. I enjoyed the way Kidd alternated the story chapters between Sarah and Hetty; each chapter like a square in a quilt, separate yet a part of the other.
As I finished the book well after 3 a.m. last night I was intrigued to discover Sarah was a true abolitionist in our history. Kidd explains the parts of the story she knew to be fact, and those she had created to help tell the story of this strong woman. I always love books set in a time period of historical significance in which people are placed in positions to do what is right, yet often, sometimes for survival, they put aside what is right for what is accepted. People often lack the courage to stand up. Books like The Book Thief, Stones from the River, The Help and this one demonstrate the way people will not always do what is right. Sometimes a way of life is such a part of our current culture that we do not see the problems right in front of us. Sometimes we lack the strength to stand up for what is just. Who would you be, who would I be, in these times?
It is one thing for Sarah to disagree with the practice of slavery in a time when the church and society have made it seem perfectly the way of the world. It is amazing she saw through this at such a young age. It is another to choose to live your life differently because of it, but Sarah went even further; she fought to change it. It took courage to speak for change with her family, in her church, in her town, and then take that fight into the world; a world in which women were expected to be silent. A world in which basic human rights didn't belong to everyone. A world blind to the truth before it.
Who would you be, who would I be, in these times?
Who are you, who am I, today?
Note: If you have a chance to visit Cincinnati's Freedom Museum, you'll want to stop. This museum tells the story of the time period Sarah and Hetty lived and the journey since. It also, reminds us that slavery is still a problem across the world. The last exhibit we visited in the museum was modern slavery. It's hard to believe in today's world this still exists. Of course, there are many forms of slavery and many things we can each do to make this world a better place. There are still people courageous enough to take on the fight.
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