Monday, July 19, 2010

#BookReview: The Sacred Place - Daniel Black

Last summer I stumbled upon a book that I really liked by Daniel Black called They Tell Me of A Home. With The Sacred Place, the author seems to have fallen into the sophomore slump.  Just as in They Tell Me of A Home, Daniel Black tackles the subject of LISWB (living in the south while black). Instead of visiting present day Mississippi, the reader is transported back to 1955.

Set during the same summer and in the same town (Money, Mississippi) where Emmett Till was murdered for whistling at a white woman, this is the fictional tale of Clement Johnson. Except it's not really fictional.  One could easily read this and come to the conclusion that the author is really telling the story of what happened to Till without directly doing so.

Like Emmett Till, Clement comes down to Mississippi to visit his family for the summer.  Accustomed to living in the big city, he pays no heed to the warnings that black people must behave differently in the south than up north.  Walking into the general store to purchase a soda is a big deal.  It's an even bigger deal when the white woman working the counter specifically asks you to place your money in her hand and instead, you place it on the counter and sass her.

It's not long before the white people in town are riled up about the new colored boy in town that doesn't know his place.  When Clement comes up missing, the black people of Money, Mississippi decide that it's finally time to take a stand.

What did you like about this book?
Daniel Black is a gifted writer.

What did you dislike about this book?
The title of the book comes from a special field that is described as the closest thing to heaven on earth.  It is here that members of Clement's family come to commune with the deceased.  It is also the place where the author loses me.  I didn't particularly care for the introduction of the supernatural aspect into what was otherwise a solid story.  In addition, there is a character that is introduced for no other reason than to show the reader that not all white people in the town are racists.  However, this character is an absolute loon and adds nothing to the story.  In fact, he's quite distracting.

What could the author do to improve this book?
My suggestion would be to either focus on the real story or the supernatural story, but not both.

Published February 2007

Theme: The Death of Emmitt Till by Bob Dylan

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