Wednesday, June 17, 2009
My Review: What the Bayou Saw
What the Bayou Saw is a powerful book dealing with race relations within the context of a good story. All too often I find that books dealing with race have "good" characters who manage to be color-blind and "bad" characters who hate anyone who doesn't look like them. This book deals more in gray.
The main character is Sally, a community college humanities instructor who lives and works in Normal, IL. Sally isn't from Normal, she is from Texas and Louisiana where she grew up in the 50's-70's. She is about six years older than I am. As a four to five year old she lives in a college dorm at Baylor and hears college boys talking about Negroes (often using less flattering terms). She wonders who these mysterious people are and disobeys her parents to go off campus to "Colored Town". She meets one who seems really decent. When she is in sixth grade, the family moves to Monroe LA. On her way to school the first day, a white man exposes himself to her. The only person who is nice to her at school that day is the Negro cook. At home, she makes friends with the daughter of her next door neighbor's maid, and when they are discovered, no one wants them playing together. Tragedy strikes that changes both of their lives forever.
In 2005 Sally has a class that includes one very bright African-American student who obviously isn't from Normal, and three neo-Nazis who are. Those boys don't like the way Sally brings Christianity and African-American culture into her humanities class, and threaten her. That day, Shamika, the African-American student doesn't show up for class and it is learned she was raped in the school parking lot. She accuses the neo-Nazis of the crime. While tutoring Shamika while she is recovering, Sally tells, for the first time ever, the real story of what happened on that Bayou.
The book is Christian fiction. Starting when she was a young child, Sally lied to keep people happy. After what happened on the bayou, the lies increased, and had become a regular part of her life. Part of the resolution of the story is her resolve to quit lying--and the realization that to do so after all these years will be hard. Sally prays, she belongs to a Bible study and her husband talks to a preacher about problems they are having. Sally repents of her sins, particularly lying, but I wouldn't really call this an overly religious book. In other words, unless you are offended by religion/Christianity, I don't think you have to be a Christian to enjoy this book.
What the Bayou Saw is being toured this week by Tywebbin Creations Blog Tours. To find tour stops, click here.
First Wilcard will tour it July 11, so check back then to read the first chapter!