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Black studies

Song Yet Sung

James McBride.
Publisher Riverhead  
Format paperback
ISBN 9781594483509
Pages/Publication Date 369/2008
Daedalus Item Code 99054
This item is not available.
"James McBride's famous memoir, The Color of Water, was a personal examination of the author's upbringing in a large, biracial family.... His first novel, Miracle at St. Anna [the basis of the Spike Lee film of the same name], followed a black regiment through turbulent events in Italy late in World War II.... McBride is just as inclusive and ambitious in his new novel, Song Yet Sung. The book begins: 'On a grey morning in March 1850, a colored slave named Liz Spocott dreamed of the future.' With that, McBride places us back in a terrible time in American history and introduces a character that would seem to merit our pity: a slave woman in Maryland, trapped in a sinister system while living so very close to freedom. This is the well-documented territory of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. With them in mind, it's easy to assume Liz is praying for her freedom and the chance to have a family of her own. But her dreams are not so personal. She has been granted the gift (or curse) of prophecy: 'And it was not pleasant. She dreamed of Negroes driving horseless carriages on shiny rubber wheels with music booming throughout, and fat black children who smoked odd-smelling cigars and walked around with pistols in their pockets and murder in their eyes ... and colored men dressed in garish costumes like children, playing odd sporting games and bragging like drunkards—every bit of pride, decency, and morality squeezed clean out of them.' Sound familiar? With that opening to this powerful novel, McBride makes it clear that he is not just interested in staring into an antique, distant past. This past is living. It is linked to the present, and the work ain't done yet.... When Liz says, 'I said I would tell you of tomorrow. I didn't say tomorrow wasn't gonna hurt,' she is speaking to us."—Washington Post

"Escaped slaves, free blacks, slave-catchers and plantation owners weave a tangled web of intrigue and adventure in bestselling memoirist (The Color of Water) McBride's intricately constructed and impressive second novel, set in pre–Civil War Maryland. Liz Spocott, a beautiful young runaway slave, suffers a nasty head wound just before being nabbed by a posse of slave catchers. She falls into a coma, and, when she awakes, she can see the future—from the near-future to Martin Luther King to hip-hop—in her dreams. Liz's visions help her and her fellow slaves escape, but soon there are new dangers on her trail: Patty Cannon and her brutal gang of slave catchers, and a competing slave catcher, nicknamed The Gimp, who has a surprising streak of morality. Liz has some friends, including an older woman who teaches her The Code that guides runaways; a handsome young slave; and a wild inhabitant of the woods and swamps. Kidnappings, gunfights and chases ensue as Liz drifts in and out of her visions, which serve as a thoughtful meditation on the nature of freedom and offer sharp social commentary on contemporary America. McBride hasn't lost his touch: he nails the horrors of slavery as well as he does the power of hope and redemption."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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