Rainer Maria Rilke

"Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn,-it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."--Rainer Maia Rilke


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Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Formatting Ruined the Story For Me

A Slave No More:  Two Men Who Escaped To Freedom, Including Their Own Narratives of Emancipation by David Blight

History

"A Slave No More" tells the true story of two men (Wallace Turnage and John Washington) who escaped slavery and lived the remainder of their lives as freedmen.  This story is the narrative of their slave life and escape rather than an account of their lives after that.

The book is divided up into two main parts:  the first part is the retelling of the narratives by David Blight, the author.  In it, Blight takes the words of the men and rewrites their stories, embellishing the tale with historical events for the reader as well as adding opinions and thoughts of his own.  The second part of the book is the actual accounts written by the men themselves.

The format of the book was really troubling to me as a reader.  I disliked how Blight rewrote the men's stories, explaining that their poor grammar and syntax was the cause. The importance of their first person account was diminished with the retelling and, in many parts, Blight seems to be speak with the arrogance of a historian lecturing down to the reader.  I disliked Blight's historical references, many of which were unneeded, and bogged the story down.  The real force of the book, the tales told by slaves who lived and breathed almost seemed tagged on as an afterthought at the end of the book.  It seems to me that their stories should have come first and then Blight's thoughts after that, or perhaps mixed in along the way.  I did enjoy learning what happened to the men and their families after their narratives were finished, though.  Overall, its isn't a book I can recommend, either for a good story or for an important historical read.

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