I’ve always been someone who listens to the unsaid. An invigorating burden it can be. Fiction is the great tableau onto which stories safely allow us to confront our truths. There are those who wish to move on and not listen to tales that illicit unpleasantry. Those who prefer to relegate unpleasantry to historic names and no-names. I’ve always been someone who likes to rattle my sense of truth in the face of difficulty, complexity and confusion. I like to feel my feet on the ground, the very same ground which all of us tread upon. I am fascinated with the stories buried underground that thanks to federal calendars in celebration of racial and cultural heritage remind us to read. This issue of Bookissh takes a look at two works, off the calendar which demonstrate the life force, genius and survival of our African American sisters and brothers. I have read both and listened to both and to be frank you can’t go wrong doing either!
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
🖊 🖊 🖊 🖊 🖊 Five Pens
Glory Over Everything: Beyond The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom 🖊 🖊 🖊 🖊 🖊 Five Pens
My recommendation is to read this as soon as possible after the first one because it facilitates continuity of character and family lines.
This one features male protagonists Jamie Pyke who flees from the Virginia Plantation and makes his way as a silversmith craftsman. Like Belle, he gets by and can pass as caucasian and his survival depends on that.
While he is making his way to Philadelphia, he meets a runaway former slave who helps him out and later comes to Jamie living a successful life and asks him to help him recover his young son Pan who has been kidnapped and soon to be sold. Making his way to North Carolina Pan encounters various slaves who were affiliated with the Virginia plantation and more significantly the Underground Railroad. It is in this part of the story readers discover tidbits of such a complex system which enabled slaves to make their way to freedom.
Jamie keeps his race a secret but has had relations with a woman, Caroline, who has become pregnant. He decides it’s best to leave because she is married and his is black. Caroline has the baby, loses the marriage and her life. Will Pan return to safety? Will Jamie’s secret be revealed? Will his freedom continue? Will Jamie’s daughter reach her loving father’s arms? Will the scars of slavery ever heal for all of us?
All of the terrible characters from the first book return and human hunting takes place. All of the deep, soulful characters who haven’t died in the first book return and in their disabled state manage to foster survival and lives as they fade into history. The tension is significant in this book–there is violence, unassisted childbirth, slow deaths. It is all so detailed and well researched and sadly, bears shameful truth. Grissom rises to great literary achievements in her continued capacity to capture narrative voices, regional dialect, reliable multiple points of view and creates a full story while doing so.