My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Many critics consider Charles Chesnut to be the most influential African American fiction writer during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His realist fiction work The Marrow of Tradition based on a historical account of race riots that took place in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1898 has been on my kindle for a while. I had been hesitant to take it on, because I thought such a subject matter would be depressing, but the classics challenge gave me the proper motivation to stop procrastinating and get reading. Chestnut did not write the novel for mere entertainment. He had two important purposes. The first was to refute misinformation about the riot perpetuated by inaccurate news reports and a series of white supremacist novels. The second was to stir a sense of outrage over lynchings and violence upon blacks.
I appreciate what Chestnut did in writing this book. The intertwined characters and plots made for an interesting story. Given the backdrop of good storytelling, Chestnut tackled a variety of difficult subjects and offered his audience alternative perspectives. He successfully documented the riots and gave the reader a context to understand them. I think that The Marrow of Tradition still has a lot to offer the modern reader as for as understanding the origins of nature of race relations, especially in the south. I’m glad I read it, but for my own taste the book was sometimes arduous.
Given the gravity of the subject matter, the nobility of purpose, and the many excellent technical aspects of the book, it is difficult for me to give this book a review that is less than glorious. However, if truth be told, I did not enjoy the book as much as expected. It had a slow start, but that wasn’t the primary problem for me. So much of the book was written from the racist perspective, that I was bored much of the time. Personally, I found the racist voice wearing, and the expectation of it dampened my interest in the book.
Though I can only give this book 3 1/2 stars based on my own enjoyment, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.
The W's are answered within the body of this post.
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