Mar 29, 2008

Prophetic Dreams

(Madison Smartt Bell, NYTimes) - “Song Yet Sung” is the second novel by James McBride, best known until now for “The Color of Water,” his memoir of growing up as the black son of a white mother.
... The story takes place on Maryland’s Eastern Shore — Harriet Tubman’s territory. ... McBride is excellent on the unusual social nuances of the backwater that was the antebellum Eastern Shore, where large-scale plantations (and the crops to support them) were few and far between. Most masters owned no more than a handful of slaves, on terms likely to include a quasi-familial intimacy. Many of the Chesapeake Bay watermen owned no slaves at all and took a dim view of the whole system, for reasons of religion or just libertarian temperament. The free black population was significant, especially in towns like Cambridge, which, in the isolation of 1850, could pass for a metropolis. Continued