Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Cast Two Shadows by Ann Rinaldi

I finished this book a few days ago but I haven'’t posted about it because I didn'’t like it and I am having trouble deciding what to say about it. It is historical fiction, about a girl living in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War. Rinaldi is a very popular author with our 5th and 6th grade girls. They ask for her books in a steady stream. This is the first one I can remember reading all the way through, and I am not impressed. Her characters are shallow and stereotypical. The dialog is B movie grade and the plot entirely predictable and boring. I was excruciatingly aware of the act of reading all through the text. It didn'’t take me anywhere, which in my opinion is unforgivable.

But the thing that made me angry was the racism and sexism portrayed by the main character, even as she is trying to present herself as humanitarian, freedom-loving and in the process of enlightenment. Granted, they are a southern family in the 18th century. It is supposed to be historically realistic, and probably many folks thought and spoke this way in that time and place. But it still made me first uncomfortable, then annoyed, then downright angry the way they kept referring to "our negras"”. The blacks in the book were humble, grateful, loyal, willing and eager to serve their beloved owners, and patiently ignorant. It was disgusting to me, and I can'’t believe that is historically accurate for the vast majority of Africans taken into slavery in this country.

So even if it was meant to be written in a way that will stir up your thinking and inspire good discussion about slavery, etc., in a middle school classroom, I still find it offensive. All the talk of freedom and honor rings hollow when the main character finds out her mother was a black slave, her grandmother is still one of the family's slaves, and she continues to think of them as "“our negras"”. It jumps the shark when she moans and wails about losing her brother'’s prize horse to the British because she couldn'’t bear to see her uncle whipped to death. She doesn't think her brother will forgive her for losing the horse.

Oh yeah, and the ending falls flat. A lot of build up about whether the occupying British commander is going to take her sister for a mistress and burn down their house, but then when he does she and her mother just go off to a friendly neighbor's farm and get along until the war is over. She still thinks of her grandmother as one of the unfortunate slaves. She still expects the rest of "our negras"” to loyally sacrifice themselves to get the horse back and bring in what plantation harvest can be found. She is still worshiping dear daddy, who impregnated one of his slaves and then sold her off to the West Indies when his wife complained. She is still worshiping her brother, "dear Johnny"”, when he abandons his Indian lover and marries someone respectable for the sake of the family name. What a load of hooey.


Overwhelmed! said...

Okay, I'm intrigued, I may have to go see if I can find this in our library.

Dorothy said...

hey, this book was really good, i dont understand why u dont think its well written. u shouldnt write negative comments about it, someone can really admire this book. just a suggestion

cloudscome said...

Dorothy I'd love to hear what you liked about it.

I don't usually write negative reviews. This is one of the few on my blog. I just found so many things in this book that really bothered me. The author is popular in our library. What did you find appealing?

Anonymous said...

i have a question though that i would really like you to answer. what was the climax of this book? i have to know by tomorrow

Andromeda Jazmon said...

That's a great question! I wonder what you thought was the climax? Did you like the book? What did you think was the most exciting part?

90's babies said...

i happen to love this book it leaves me mad and furious and it provokes me isn't that what a book supose to do? to challege your mind and your moral. yea maybe its a little raceist and sexist but thats how it was in the 1780's