The Lynching by Laurence Leamar

cover.jpegI was pleasantly surprised with this book. Once again Laurence Leamer has written a beautifully crafted image for his audience of the lives of those oppressed throughout history. He is known for other best-selling books, including The Price of Justice, which looked into a court case about two lawyers bringing down a big coal company. This legal battle showcased the greed and corruption of American businesses in the early 1990s until now. The lynching similarly showcases the corruption of officials and citizens in Alabama and the dangers of hatred. The message of this book leaves the reader with clear and crucial lesson to its audience about hate crimes in America. It offers a lot of insight of modern day racism and the justice system. In light of recent events surrounding the Black community, it was nice to hear how dedicated one man was to getting justice for a teen who died unjustly. Morris Dees, the lawyer prosecuting the UKA, vows to take down the most powerful hate group in American history.

The book follows two perspectives, that of the Morris Dees and the main influencers of the UKA or United Klans of America. The two parties go head to head in a gruesome, intense, and historical case that made its mark on the fight for equality in the south. Alabama was the first formerly Confederate state to have such a case bring such major press and legal consequences for those who committed hate crimes. Prior to the trial, the UKA had both political and social power against their communities. They helped elect Governor George Wallace into office after promises of segregation of the communities and kept others in the community quiet if they acted against them. They fought for schools and public places to remain separated. Once Jim Crow started to crumble, there were still organizations like this that tried to keep the division among the people. The first court case of the novel commences with the death of an Alabama teenager, Michael Donald. Two men stop him on the street, kidnap him, and then murder him in an attempt to revive the Black community’s fear of the Klan. Dees himself expresses his disgust for the men, explaining how “he kept thinking about how these Klan members had been led to equate the lynching of a black man to justice. Knowing there had always been this division never seemed so dangerously destructive before he took this case.  He went on to describe the leader of the Klan as “evil”, which to Dees, was rare. No one he had ever seen had such an intense gaze that seemed to curse every soul who looked at him, or his son, in opposition and disgust. The vibes from these men truly describe the amount of hatred and ignorance that was deeply rooted in Southern culture for years. There was no justice for a Black man. Period.  Originally a segregationist and friends of the members, Dees works against them to form a case that stops racism right in its tracks. Racism in America still existed in these times and there definitely needs to be a change. There cannot be change if we turn our heads from the issue. We must see it for all it is and acknowledge the pain people experience every day. Spreading hatred into the world will never solve anything. Families and communities are being destroyed because we cannot put aside our differences.

All in all, I believe Laurence Leamer has crafted a perfect example of what modern day racism looks like in America. We see what obstacles people of color have to go through to get justice, and how there are still individuals who spew hatred at other in an attempt to establish some sort of dominance. We as a nation have a long way to go before every man is created equal, however these trials take a massive step in the right direction. A young man receives justice for his death, and the men responsible see the side of the law they thought was on their side.

Reviewed by Lauryn H. ’17 for Literature of the Millennium

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The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

coverThere is absolutely no way to capture and portray the full brilliance of a Toni Morrison novel through a simple book review, but I will attempt to give it the praise it so deserves. For those who have read any of her other novels, it will come as no surprise how engrossing The Bluest Eye truly is. Toni Morrison is an incredibly talented novelist who artfully brings to light aspects of broader issues that are not necessarily talked about in day to day life. The Bluest Eye is set in Lorain, Ohio in 1941 after the Great Depression. Through context in the book it can be assumed that they have moved north to Ohio from the rural South as part of The Great Migration of African Americans that started in 1910 and ended around 1940—one year before this story takes place. However, rather than tell this story through the generic means that a typical history textbook would, Morrison tells the story through an unseen point of view: the eyes of children.

The novel has several plot-lines that weave in and out over the course of the story in a way that allows you to piece the puzzle together in the perfect way. I was able to gather my own thoughts about the intricate and richly detailed characters and then attach it to themes that helped me understand the story. The novel opens with nine year old Claudia and ten year old Frieda MacTeer. Their parents seem to have a little trouble in the household, but the love for their children does seem to be sincere. The family is also joined by a man named Henry who makes unwanted sexual advances on several characters, and a little girl by the name of Pecola. Pecola takes refuge with the family in order to escape her own (her father drinks and her mother is not a very warm figure in her life).

The plot line switches to follow Pecola who is continually described as not being very beautiful. She is mocked and taunted on the playground by other children, and unfairly targeted for wrong-doings she did not commit. This is where the theme of the book comes from. As Pecola grows up and starts to look around, she begins to realize that all the little white girls with blue eyes are treated differently. She admires Shirley Temple. She thinks the white dolls in the stores are more beautiful. “It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes…were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different,” because she would be loved.

The other unconventional thing that Morrison does in her novels, is that she asks forgiveness for the antagonist through revealing their story and by giving enough background and context for the reader to delve into the realms of why the character did what they did and not just if they did them. One such character by the name of Cholly is incredibly controversial. From the moment the story opened, it is known that Pecola is impregnated by her father, who, as it later becomes apparent, is Cholly. But with the extensive background we are given about Cholly, it is impossible not to feel a bit of compassion towards him. As the reader, it feels weird to have empathy so seamlessly for all of the characters, but the way in which Morrison tells the story, it’s impossible not to. And again, it is interesting to see this told through the innocent eyes of children. Claudia describes the scene she sees, saying: “It never occurred to either of us that the earth itself might have been unyielding. We had dropped our seeds in our own little plot of black dirt just as Pecola’s father had dropped his seeds in his own plot of black dirt.”

Needless to say, for those who have read Toni Morrison’s Beloved, this novel is equally as brilliant, but slightly easier to read on your own as the imagery is less abstract. The incredible thing about Morrison’s writing is that it can very often be left up to one’s own interpretation. This novel is a perfect example of how no two people will interpret something exactly the same as each other. The answers are often found in one’s own personal context and life. The full impact of Morrison’s story is a feeling one can only experience through the careful reading of The Bluest Eye and the understanding of her words. So for those of you who would like to read something beautifully written, gut-wrenching, and eye-opening, I guarantee this is a book you will be unable to put down.

Reviewed  by Bella ’17 for Literature of the Millennium

A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

cover            Do you want a change in your usual book themes? Do you like to visualize the story in front of you? If so, A Dog’s Purpose should be next up to read. It is a story of one dog as Toby, Bailey, Ellie, and Buddy. With each life comes a new purpose, such as giving unconditional love and saving people.

What separates this novel from others is that it is told from the dog’s perspective; it is written in first person. This stylistic choice is what drew me into reading the book. What’s funny is that dogs cannot write so we are taken into the creative mind of the author, W Bruce Cameron. He succeeded in writing some very plausible ideas that dogs can be thinking while keeping them humorous and appealing to the reader. One of the common thoughts of the dog was concerning cats, “I wondered briefly if cats also came back after death, then dismissed the thought because as far as I had ever been able to tell, cats do not have a purpose.”

The novel starts with Toby, a wild dog who fumbles through life and learns the hierarchy of the pack. Next comes Bailey, with the classic golden retriever life with his loving family and his boy to protect. The third reincarnation is Ellie who becomes a police dog, and the final life is Buddy who is left to find his own path.

My experience with dogs helped me to be more drawn into the novel because I have experienced many of the events that occurred from the snuggling to saying farewell. This book is however, for dog lovers, cat lovers, fish lovers and even if you are not a fan of pets.

While it is a quick, easy read, it will leave you happy inside and it will make you wonder what the next dog you see is thinking. I recommend this book to everyone but prepare for the tears (both happy and sad) and an unforeseen ending.

Reviewed by Liliya F ’17 for Literature of the Millennium

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

coverHow would you feel if you had to live every day in fear of the love of your life being deployed in a war struck country? Dear John by Nicholas Sparks is one of my favorite books of all time. Sparks pulls you in and takes you on an emotional roller coaster by making you fall in love with the main character, John Tyree, a United States Military veteran. As you are falling in love with John, he is falling in love with the other main character of the book, Savanah Curtis. All love stories contain heartbreak, but this book in particular has you grabbing multiple boxes of tissues. Sparks pulls in his readers only to leave them in despair in the middle of the novel. John and Savanah’s love is easy and carefree, making this book an easy and pleasurable read for almost all audiences. As a result of the September 11th attacks, John re-enrolls in the military to fulfill his need to serve his country. When John leaves, Savanah has second thoughts about the long distance relationship and sends a letter beginning with “Dear John,”.

What I love about many of Sparks’ novels is that they are very realistic; they don’t always end in a happily ever after. John and Savanah’s relationship was nowhere close to “ideal”. In one scene in the book, Savanah suggests that John’s father might have Asperger’s syndrome, a disorder resembling autism. As one can imagine, John did not take this diagnosis very well and put up a wall for some time, shutting out Savanah. Sparks also uses figurative language throughout his novels. In one instance, Sparks writes, “The initial feelings associated with love were almost like an ocean wave in their intensity, acting as the magnetic force that drew two people together.” If this doesn’t scream romance, I don’t know what does.

If you are looking for a story that has a happy romantic ending, I suggest staying away from this book. But, if you are ready to steer away from the stereotypical romance novel and let your heart be vulnerable, this is the book for you. To find out what happens between John and Savanah, I strongly suggest getting lost in this tear jerking novel.

Reviewed by Madison H ’17 for Literature of the Millennium