Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Book Review – Historical Fiction

Taylor, Mildred D. 2001. THE LAND. New York: Phyllis Fogelman Books.

Paul-Edward Logan, son of a wealthy land owner and a black woman who worked for his father, grew up with the unique situation of being acknowledged as part of his father’s white family—that is until a family confrontation forced him to run from home and fend suddenly for himself. But he carried always with him a deep and abiding desire to own his own land. This is the story of his quest to realize that dream in a world where former slaves might be free but certainly not equal.

In this prequel to her award-winning ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY, Mildred Taylor, through her introduction and character development of Paul-Edward Logan, the grandfather of her beloved Logan clan, not only reveals the life-wrenching struggles endured to procure the Logan’s land, but also gives a sign of the times that her protagonist had to endure the humiliations and sacrifices he did. Race is a huge factor throughout Paul-Edward’s life, from the blow-up with his father that precipitated his leaving the comfort of his home, to the white landowner who thought he could reclaim land promised to Paul-Edward, cleared by his own sweat and blood and that of the people he loved.

This race riddled disparity of the post Civil War south is not sugar coated by Taylor, but is revealed in the dialogue of her characters: “You think I care about a paper signed with a nigger? Well, let me tell you something, boy. There was a time I owned hundreds of you people.” Taylor’s accurate depiction of life and times of this period does not weigh down a compelling story in its own right.

Friendship is a powerfully uplifting theme from the first of the story where Paul’s nemesis, Mitchell continues to beat up on Paul. Peace is finally made between the two, and they become lifelong, faithful friends who come through for each other at powerfully critical times. It is only through Mitchell’s help that all the land gets cleared that will supposedly give Paul ownership. Mitchell ultimately gave his life in this endeavor.

In the author’s note, she tells how she drew from her own family’s oral history. After reading this book it’s plain to see why it was awarded the Scott O’Dell award for historical fiction as well as the Coretta Scott King award for outstanding literature. It is an outstandingly interesting read for older elementary students, as well as adults.

Horn Book starred (Spring, 2002)
Taylor masterfully uses these historical realities to frame a powerful coming-of-age story of a bewildered boy becoming a man beholden to no one.

Booklist*Starred Review* Gr. 7-12. Like Taylor's Newbery Medal book, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976), this powerful historical novel, a prequel to Roll of Thunder, refuses to "whitewash" history. As the author notes in her afterword, the language was painful and life was painful for many African Americans, including her family. Drawing directly on her family history, especially what she knows about her great-grandfather, she goes back to the time of Reconstruction to tell a searing story of cruelty, racism, and betrayal. She also tells a thrilling coming-of-age story about friendship, hope, and family strength.

School Library Journal (August 1, 2001)
Gr 7-10
It is wonderful historical fiction about a shameful part of America's past. Its length and use of the vernacular will discourage casual readers, but those who stick with it will be richly rewarded. For fans of the other Logan books, it is not to be missed.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Other historical fiction by Mildred D. Taylor include:
The Friendship
The Gold Cadillac
Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry
Let the Circle be Unbroken
The Road to Memphis
Mississippi Bridge
Song of the Trees

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