There is much talk of slavery currently, with Steve McQueen’s extraordinary and hopefully Oscar winning film on the subject, but for those who can’t get to the film, there’s a revealing and moving book just out on the same subject by Sue Monk Kidd, writer of the super-popular The Secret Life of Bees.
As well as the horrors of slavery the story covers the problem women had with appalling misogyny and it develops along the real time line of how Abolitionists in the US split over the involvement of white women in the fight to free slaves, bonkers but true.
Stretching from 1805 to 1838, it tracks the true tale of Sarah Grimke-born into a rich, slave owning plantation family in the south and her slave Handful, who she is ‘given’ at 11 years old and who -against all the rules- she teaches to read and write. The narrative swaps from well meaning but embattled abolitionist Sarah, to the gritty truth of Handful and her quest for a life outside imprisonment.
It’s a powerfully engaging, educational, moving and constantly disturbing look at slavery from both Sarah and Handful’s experience. Sarah knows from childhood she is against owning slaves, but being female no one takes her opinion seriously and she is hampered in her role as abolitionist by the misogyny and racism that abounded.
Handful’s character is written beautifully, hers is the grimmer story and I found myself incensed at her plight. Sue Monk Kidd dwells on the day to day small cruelties dished out by the white women of the house which might have you shouting outrage at the book, as I did.
Altogether a compelling read, and it features quilts in a beautifully poetic manner, so sewers take note. Buy here