Saturday, September 30, 2006
I just finished reading this work of historical fiction written in the 1970s. It is based on the idea of a black woman traveling back in time to the 1800s, when slavery was a severe reality of life. It is interesting to try to infer how much has changed since the book was written. Perhaps the 1970s were more concerned with basic human rights than we are today. The countercultural movements of the 1960s were largely coopted by society in the 1970s, just as 21st century America has largely absorbed the gang violence of the 1980s and 1990s and made it more like an attitude that anyone can adopt. The peace movement, civil rights struggles, labor activism, and feminism were all still alive in the 1970s. Now, in the 21st century, war, racism, low wages, and sexism are still with us, but the protests seem muted compared to the enormity of the changes in the 60s and 70s. The power of activism seems focused on other things. But to get to the actual book, I really struggled to get through this one, even though the craftsmanship level is high and the subject matter is worthwhile. It felt like assigned reading. I don't think I've personally learned all the lessons this book has to teach, but I don't know if that's because of some inner struggle to empathize or just because the focus of my interests and society's interests have changed so much since the 1970s. It is a good book, ultimately, and it is relevant to today; I just wish I could give a solid reason for not liking it the way I do.