Thursday, March 27, 2014

Slice of Life: The Invention of Wings (27 of 31)

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.

The problem with reading, if we can say there is one, is that its hard to sleep when you have a good book.   Last night I woke up when I heard my daughter come in from work at 11:15.  I heard the knob jiggle, the door open, and her feet tap gently across the foyer floor.  She chatted with the dog for a bit and wandered into the kitchen.  I had the alarm set to check on her so I would have awaken no matter what.  Climbing out of my heated bed I walked in the kitchen to talk with her for a bit and then headed back to my room.  My book was calling me as soon as consciousness returned to my mind.   Since I am on spring break I decided I could read for awhile as I didn't necessarily have to get up early.

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.  




13 comments:

  1. Aaaaaah! I love this review! Thank you Cathy. I may not get to that book until the summer but your review makes me want to read it even more. Don't you love the feeling of staying up late because you simply can't put down the book? I also agree with you. The Freedom Museum in Cinci is a must! Thanks for a great post!

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  2. Sounds like a great read!! I loved The Secret Life of Bees.. I love books that are so good that you cannot put them down. Aren't we blessed to be able to read.. It's on my list.

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  3. So glad I came across your post! I love hearing about new books, and this one sounds really great! I loved The Secret Life of Bees, so I'll definitely be checking this out. I've recently read House Girl and 12 Years a Slave, so I feel like the theme of slavery and struggling through trials in your life is something resonating with me right now. Thanks for sharing! ;)

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  4. I'm reading it right now! I have the Oprah version, and I love reading her notes. Your questions remind me of the book I'm listening to, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock in which one of Leonard's teachers, Herr Silverman, asks the class the same kinds of questions about Nazi Germany. I've never been to the Freedom Center, even though it's practically in my back yard. I need to go! Thanks for a great review- I'm 30% of the way. When I'm done, I'll tweet you! :-)

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  5. Put it on my summer reading list (can't take on anything heavy during the school year; plus, it might take till summer to get to number one on the digital waiting list'!) I also find myself staying up say too late engrossed in a book.

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  6. I have no doubt, I will always speak up, Cathy. I loved The Secret Life of Bees, and have read it with a group of my students, too. These questions are so important, & some because students need to know there is choice. Even if we think there isn't, choice does enter in, & I think having that freedom makes us stronger. Thanks for a terrific post, & love that you stayed up to finish!

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  7. Looks like I am going to have to get the book. I see you compare it with "Stones from the River" which was a really great book. I still have to read "The Book Thief" too. So....looks like I will put my name on the list at the library. Glad you are able to get in a good read on your spring break.

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  8. LOVED this book, and I am going to use passages from it in my unit on slavery.

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  9. I have this on my list to read also! I was hoping it will be good. Though I loved BEES, I was disappointed in Mermaid one. Your review inspired me to get it soon.

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  10. Wow - I can't believe that you stayed up to 3:30am!! I guess, like you said, that's what spring break is for! Sounds like a fascinating book and I have it on reserve at my library! Thanks for your suggestion and insights!

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  11. My book club is discussing this book on Wednesday. I haven't started it yet, but it sounds like I'll be able to finish in plenty of time! After reading your review, I can't wait until spring break starts tomorrow night!

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  12. I really enjoyed this book as well, and was fascinated by the fact that these 2 sisters are as much known for their work for women's rights as for that of abolition.
    So glad you are doing the things you can't do during a work week, like stay up reading until the middle of the night - love it!!

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  13. WOW! In Charleston, on the Magnolia plantation, a guide told me to read this book about these two women - what a coincidence!! They were aunts to the family who owned this huge plantation. I just saw their pictures. I'll have to get it - it sounds even better than what she said. And love that you stayed up all night reading - how fun!!

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