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Monday, April 2, 2018

The Invention of Wings


The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
 
In simple terms, the book is the fictionalized history of the Grimké sisters, Sarah and Angelina (Nina), who were at the forefront of the abolitionist and women's rights movements in its early beginnings before the Civil War. As young girls and women they grew up on a slave holding plantation in South Carolina.   In alternating chapters  is the intriguing narrative of Sarah and a young slave, Hetty, who was given to Sarah as an 11th birthday present. Sarah despises slavery, even at that early age, and out of principle attempts to reject the gift.

Much of the Grimkés' story is historically based: Kidd has fleshed out mountains of research — facts, figures, dates, letters, and articles — into a believable and elegantly rendered fictional first person account of Sarah's life. But though Hetty was real, her story here is almost entirely fabricated — and perhaps because she is mostly a product of Kidd's imagination, Hetty's character seems truly inspired.

A key moment in the book comes with the discovery that Sarah has taught Hetty to read — a criminal offense in antebellum South Carolina. Punishment is cruel for both girls; Sarah is banned from her favorite things in the world: her father's library and his books. Hetty is whipped.

Meanwhile, Sarah's family ridicules her hope to study law, labeling it unseemly because she is a woman. She is shattered and cowed by their conviction that being a woman means she has no right to ambition. Overcoming that obstacle is a long, painful journey full of self-doubt; she'll face prejudice toward her sex the rest of her life, even as she eventually  creates a national following for her abolitionist crusade. Sarah may read, think, or speak — as long as she doesn't make any men uncomfortable by doing so. Her younger sister is also highlighted.  Sarah is the thinker. Her younger sister Nina is the doer.  They make a great team.

I would strongly suggest that your read the author’s comments at the end of this wonderful novel before starting on the book story itself. It’s fascinating and will help clarify where historical facts and the author imagination stand. I also found it interesting that the author tells how she ran across the Grimke sisters story  in a Chicago exposition of “one hundred of the most influential women in American History.” The two sisters certainly deserved much more notice in the annals of American History textbooks than they ever received. For my part between 1964 and 2004 when I taught units on the people and events leading up to the Civil War to high school students I always included their neglected story. Now I’m every glad that Kidd, a wonderful writer,  has brought that story to a much wider audience. I strongly recommend it to everyone…

 

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@Barrie Summy

17 comments:

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

This is definitely a book that would interest me. I downloaded it and look forward to reading about these brave women. Thanks for writing this review and bringing attention to a story that most do not know.

Joanne Noragon said...

This book is headed for my library. Thanks for the review!

Red said...

This sounds like a very gripping story. If you can be whipped for learning to read, what else could you be whipped for. I will look for this book.

Valerie said...

Thank goodness I live in an age where women are allowed to read etc etc. Definitely going to try and get this book and thank you for sharing it.

Anvilcloud said...

It seems like a very interesting book.

Lin said...

I agree...enjoyed this book a lot!

Out on the prairie said...

Sounds good, a fun era I like to read. Did you know the Cherokee Indians had slaves, but any offspring were allowed into the tribe?

Arkansas Patti said...

I read this a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. They were amazing women.

Barrie said...

I loved this book! Thank you for such a wonderful review of it.

Powell River Books said...

I was a history major in college. My first shock was how high school (and earlier) textbooks were sanitized to tell only a chosen perspective of our past. - Margy

Dee said...

Dear Troutbirder, thanks so much for reviewing Kidd's book. I so enjoyed her first two books but haven't read anything by her since--just got caught up mostly in mystery novels. I find the Civil War period--ante and post --interesting and will get this from the library. I'm looking forward to reading about her research also, as right now I am researching a novel that takes place in first-century Palestine. Peace.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Great review, Ray. I'm interested in reading after reading your comments. I'd heard of the Grimke sisters, but don't know a great deal. I thought I read they were Quakers. So hard to imagine Quakers owning slaves, though.

troutbirder said...

They grew up on a large plantation in South Carolina. Later became Quakers in the North. And later.....

Bubba Muntzer said...

You were Howard Zinn before there was a Howard Zinn.

Inspired review, too. Thanks!

Sarah Laurence said...

Thanks for reminding me why I had wanted to read this book. It was helpful to hear about the author comments too. Fine review!

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

I read this, back when it first came out. I did enjoy it.

Linda said...

Sounds really interesting. Did you know that Stonewall Jackson broke Virginia law by teaching slaves to read the Bible? That was before the war, of course.