Sunday, February 28th, 2010
Blogs | Sociology of Sheena
The Darkest Child – Book Review
I am participating in a book challenge for the year to stretch my literary intake. I decided to participate in one I would have never thought to do and that is the African Diaspora Reading Challenge 2010.
My goal is read a book a month and I’m going for the Scholor Level of participation.
The book I read for February was “The Darkest Child” by Delores Phillips.
Wow. Wow! WOW! I could not put this book down. I would get angry when my train would get to my destination because I had to stop reading. I stayed up late reading chapters and often wanted to stop whatever I was doing in my day to day activities to get back to this book!
So many of the themes in the book resonated with me either for personal reasons or just personal preferences of what interest me or intrigues me. Physical and Sexual Abuse. Dysfunctional Families. Love and Possession. Mental Disorders. Set against the back drop of the deep south during the civil rights movement with streams of racism dripping on every page.
The story is told from the perspective of Tangy Mae, who happens to be Rozelle’s darkest children. Rozelle categorizes her children by their skin complexion. Something black people continue to do tell this day unfortunately. We categorize each other by skin color, hair texture, eye color and every other label we can think of.
Tangy Mae is one of MANY children living with her mother in a house that doesn’t have electricity or running water. She suffers extreme abuse from her mother who may or may not have a mental disorder. Sometimes I think people use mental disorders as a way to not take responsibility for their actions. (Do not be upset. I believe mental disorders are real. Depression is real. Postpartum is real. These are real issues. But not everyone has a mental disorder. Think about people who use the insane plea to get out of having to serve jail time when you know they were sane. And I think sometimes even in this novel the mother was faking it. Its hinted at at times as well.)
Tangy Mae has resilience, strength and determination that eventually aids in her freedom.
I hated the mother. I wish the author had made the mother less hateful. I like characters where its hard to tell if they are evil or good. A character where they do horrible things but have redeeming qualities as well. Its makes the story more intriguing for me. Its not so easy to label a person as a monster and you can’t just pick sides. I wish the mother had been less of a monster because then I wonder how I would have responded to the story. The mother was possessive, abusive, and at time psychotic. The mother is also a murderer.
Tangy Mae’s relationship to her father is limited. They have a great scene in the book about the worth of love and whether its better to kill for it or die for it. That was a beautiful gut wrenching moment.
I feel like this story is the story of so many people.
Another thing intriguing about this novel was the Shakespearan theme found in Measure for Measure. In Measure for Measure the pure and holy nun Isabelle must sleep with Angelo to free her brother Claudio who is in jail for having sex with his fiance which is against the law. Angelo is the ruling king at the time in the Duke’s absence and because he has issues with sexual repression he outlaws certain aspects of sexual behavior. Thus Claudio being jailed and the ironic way to free him…virgin Isabella having to have sex with Angelo to free him. [I played Isabella in college for my Acting Shakespeare class]
Then, Isabel, live chaste, and, brother, die:
More than our brother is our chastity.
I’ll tell him yet of Angelo’s request,
And fit his mind to death, for his soul’s rest.
A similar theme in found in The Darkest Child. Tangy’s Mae brother is being held in jail for a crime he did not commit and in order to free him…..
“Do whatever he tells you to do. Be nice to him, and tomorrow I’m gon’ bring yo’ brother home.” (the mother says.) Did I care enough about Sam to risk my life as Tarabelle had done? If there was a choice between saving Sam or myself, I would choose to save myself. (Tangy Mae)
“Don’t make me hurt you,” he whispered against my ear. “Think about your brother. I can have him free by tomorrow.” At that moment, I did not give one damn about my brother. (Tangy Mae)
This book is phenomenal. It is well written. Each character…and there are many…are intriguing as the last you were just introduced to. The story has so many layers and twists and just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, it does. But there are moments of joy and happiness in this story as well although they are far and few between and in the end there is hope. Not too much, because then that would be too dismissive to the story, but there is enough hope to bring all the pain to a satisfying end.