TITLE: Queen Sugar
AUTHOR: Natalie Baszile
PUBLISHER: Thorndike Press
PUBLISHED DATE: May 21, 2014
I read this book in anticipation of Oprah and Ava Duvernay's highly anticipated 13 episode television series that will debut on September 6 on the OWN network. I absolutely see why these two strong black women wanted to create a show based on this work, and I am more excited than ever to see these characters brought to the small screen. This book was beautiful, amazing, compelling....I felt all the feelings with this one. I think I'm just going have to put this book on my required reading list.
Charley Bordelon is living life on the margins. Frustrated with her job, never having owned a home of her own - she sees an inheritance from her father as a chance to start a new life. Charley learns that her inheritance isn't quite what she thought it would be. Instead of an array of buildings spread throughout Los Angeles, Charley learns that she's inherited a sugar cane farm in Louisiana - a place and a way of life she knows nothing about. When Charley arrives with her 11 year old daughter, Micah, she learns that she has an uphill battle to conquer - to make it, she'll have to beat the odds. In addition to navigating hostile waters, she'll have to confront the resentment of her disinherited brother, Ralph Angel. This story is full of raw wisdom - at it's core it's a simple story of working hard and treating people well. But it's compelling because you don't know what's going to happen. Baszile's writing makes this simmering story complex in it's simplicity. This was a gem, definitely a book that spoke to my heart.
This story is told through the straight forwardness of a third person narrator - that gives us reliable information about the motives and histories of each character. I also listened to this book on Audible.com, and the narrator - Miriam Hyman - did a magnificent job bringing this story to life.
Imagine the beautiful prose of Cynthia Bond coupled with the simplicity of J. California Cooper. Yes ma'am! That's what this book is serving you! This book made me proud, and filled my heart, and kept me up at night listening and wanting to know what happens next!
My muscles ache after reading this book, because I feel like I was on that sugar cane farm in Louisiana! Baszile takes you into the world and delves you in deep - not just in the beautiful way she describes it, but also in the practical side of the business. You can taste the Boudin, and feel the sweltering heat...you ride the tractor - you cry and laugh with the characters, Baszile masters the art of including the reader in the story.
This book doesn't shy away from difficult topics, or details that find themselves lacking in other story. Baszile confronts themes and fine points with honesty and bravery. I am no farmer, nor am I an expert in the sugar cane industry - but this book felt wholly authentic to me.
Each character is so rich and gives so much. The two most complex characters are Charley and Ralph Angel - and the tension between them is like a flame.
Inheritance. Hard work. Self worth and love. Family. The sacrifices we make for family - and the ones we just can't in order to protect ourselves. This book deals with racism, but it also about people of different races coming together and being good to one another. This book is about not caving to obstacles, but fighting for yourself and standing up against adversity. Motherhood and sisterhood - about what a mother wouldn't do to give the best to her daughter, and about the encouragement to be had in the friendship of other women. Interracial relationships - yes chyle!!! Charley gets her swirl on! And even in that, she's not afraid to speak up for herself and call out bigotry by it's name! This book is about the rivalry that exists between siblings, and how resentment and hurt can boil up, and in this case, boils up fatally. This book is about the inter-generational friendships that can be so beautiful and enriching...I'm telling you!!! There are so many wonderful themes in this book!
The cover is beautiful, and totally appropriate for this book. Tall sugar cane and fireflies. It reminds me of the south and summertime. Kind of reminds me of the Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.
Though this book is largely in the present, it does take detours into the pasts of Charley and Ralph Angel. These details or necessary in order to give you the background into the motives of the characters and provide the scaffolding for their relationship. I didn't find the transitions from the past to the present a distraction. I thought it was well done, and enriched the story.
Recommendation: Required. Seriously, you need to hurry up and read this book, and then live tweet it on September 6 and 7, 2016 at 10pm/9pm (central)!!!
Audience: Millennials and Beyond
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