Monday, February 22, 2010

#BookReview: A Second Helping - Beverly Jenkins

The second in what I hope becomes a series, A Second Helping is the follow up to 2009's Bring on the Blessings. The residents of the historically black town of Henry Adams, KS are back for more.

Readers of the first book will remember that newly divorced millionaire Bernadine Brown bought the struggling town while looking for a project to immerse herself in after she found her husband of twenty-plus years cheating. A woman with a big heart, Bernadine began a project in the first book to unite the families of Hays Adam with hard to place foster children. In her latest sequel, we find the kids and their families thriving and readying for adoption.

Eleven year old former car thief, Amari, has found a home with the mayor of the small town and has made the decision to become a part of the July family. In order to do so, he must complete a spiritual quest guided by the matriarch of the July family, Tamar, and complete an unselfish task that brings joy to someone else. Paging through old photo albums, Amari stumbles upon pictures of the August 1st parade and decides to organize one for his new family and new town.

Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of an August 1st parade. Most of us are familiar with Juneteenth, which is celebrated on June 19 to commemorate the abolition of slavery in Texas, the last state to free their slaves in 1865. August 1st celebrates the abolishment of slavery in the British empire in 1834 and was celebrated throughout towns in the United States up until 1927. To this day it is also celebrated in Barbados, Bermuda, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Anguilla, The Bahamas, Turks & Caicos and the British Virgin Isles.

During the 1830s these annual events were small affairs largely organized in schoolhouses, debating halls, and black churches. Over subsequent decades, however, these annual meetings became much larger, more public, and communal affairs. Thousands of people of African descent would congregate in villages, towns, and city squares during the opening days of August to celebrate the ending of slavery elsewhere and organize for its overthrow in the United States. During the 1850s, these public meetings became breeding grounds for more militant opposition toward American slavery: through the attraction and participation of fugitive slaves; the parade of armed black militias; and, fiery speeches demanding the violent overthrow of American slavery. In British Canada, an older generation of black people, along with fugitives and more recent emigrants, also adapted August First as an important expression of their antislavery actions and political identities. In short, August First Day was to become the most important public commemorative event and popular form of mobilization among people of African descent in the English-speaking Atlantic world between the 1830s and the 1860s. - excerpt from Whatever Happened to August First by J.R. Kerr-Ritchie
Along with the adventures that come with planning a parade, readers are introduced to a few new characters and will be delighted to reacquaint themselves with old, familiar characters.

What did you like about this book?
I loved the introduction of August 1st. The author is known for writing historical romances. Though this is not a romance in the true sense of the word, I'm glad that she introduced the historical aspects of this fictional town.

What did you dislike about this book?
It ended too quickly. Yes, even with 386 pages, I wanted more.

How can the author improve this book?
No improvements needed. It's my hope that this becomes a series and that it doesn't take another year for the next edition to be released.

386 pp
Published January 2010

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