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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cane River by Lalita Tademy~★★★★★

Author: Lalita Tademy
Title: Cane River
Release Date: June 20th, 2001
Publisher: Warner Books
Genre: Historical Fiction

Book Jacket: "Lalita Tademy had always been intensely interested in her family's stories, especially ones about her great-grandmother Emily, a formidable figure who died with her life's savings hidden in her mattress. Probing deeper for her family's roots, Tademy soon found herself swept up in an obsessive two-year odyssey---and leaving her corporate career for the little Louisiana farming community of Cane River.
It was here, on a medium-sized Creole plantation owned by a family named Derbanne, that author Lalita Tademy found her family's roots---and the stories of four astonishing women who battled vast injustices to create a legacy of hope and achievement. They were women whose lives began in slavery, who weathered the Civil War, and who grappled with the contradictions of emancipation through the turbulent early years of the twentieth century. Through it all, they fought to unite their family and forge success on their own terms.
Here amid small farmhouses and a tightly knit community of French-speaking slaves, free people of color, and whites, Tademy's great-great-great-great grandmother Elisabeth would bear both a proud heritage and the yoke of slavery. Her youngest daughter, Suzette, would be the first to discover the promise-and heartbreak-of freedom. Suzette's strong-willed daughter Philomene would use her determination born of tragedy to reunite her family and gain unheard-of economic independence. And Emily, Philomene's spirited daughter, would fight to secure her children's juse due and preserve their future against dangerous odds..."

Taryn's Review: I first came across Cane River a few years back after I had visited Louisiana and was desperate to learn more about the state I had just developed a love affair with. After much Google-ing, I picked up the book at the local library and tore through the book. Lalita Tademy had me at the first page!

I re-read the book again and my love for the novel is still strong! Tademy's book is not completely based on a true story, but she used elements of her family tree that she located and interwove the pieces into a beautiful, complex novel about slavery and the importance of the heritage that shaped her lineage. Tademy fully disclosed that the book was her account of what could have happened (fiction), but reading the book I felt like Tademy could have been a fly on the wall, observing each generation and recording it for us to read.

Cane River was also scattered with pictures and documents that Tademy came across in her mission to uncover her family history. It was shocking to look at her ancestors' pictures, some of whom appeared white by today's standards, yet back in those days it wasn't color that condemned them but the fact that they had African blood in them. The memory of the community was acutely aware of that drop of blood.

Tademy is a talented writer and successfully tied the stories together in a book that I truly wish would have never had to have been written. Slavery, racial hate, and separation by color are hard for me to understand being raised in the current times. Reading this work, even knowing it was fictional, still made my heart ache for Elisabeth, Suzette, Philomene, and Emily and all the real people they stood for in the book; for the hate they suffered, for the cruelty they suffered, the tragedy and the humiliation they endured. I am also in awe of their strength and applaud Lalita Tademy for writing such a wonderful book..

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