Timing is everything, they say.
That’s what crossed my mind last week as I read the deeply absorbing new novel by Sue Monk Kidd, “The Invention of Wings.”
As controversy swirled over LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments … and as the Jewish community observed Holocaust Remembrance Week … I was engrossed in a story about the daughter of a slave owner and her 35-year relationship with a slave.
This historical fiction was inspired by the real-life Sarah Grimké, a woman born into privilege in ante-bellum Charleston, who knew from an early age that slavery was wrong and grew up to become one of the first women and best-known abolitionists of her time.
It is not only a richly compelling story of relationships between complex people, but also a devastating reminder of what life was like before slaves were emancipated and this horrible time in our history came to an end.
We have evolved as a nation since then, but we still have work to do.
Racism Can Not Be Tolerated
Personally, I am elated that the NBA came out forcefully with severe sanctions against Sterling for his comments. But whether or not you agree with the NBA’s ruling, no one can deny that Sterling’s rant was racist and hate-based. There is no excuse for that. Ever.
Prejudice Has No Place in Society
Congress established the Days of Remembrance as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust. and to remind all of us what can happen to civilized people when bigotry, hatred and apathy are allowed to flourish.
We say “never again.” But what does that really mean?
Racism, prejudice, genocide, other atrocities happen when we fail to take action.
In “The Invention of Wings,” Sarah’s voice was stifled, both literally and figuratively. Forced to watch the violence inflicted against slaves, she lost the ability to speak without stuttering. When she grew older and escaped the confines of her home, she ventured north to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and became enamored of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, a peace-seeking religious group that openly denounced slavery. And from there, she became a spokesperson for abolition.
The Philadelphia Quaker connection had special meaning for me. My children all attended Quaker schools. In fact, my son’s Commencement took place in the Arch Street Meeting House, the very site that played a prominent role in “The Invention of Wings.”
To Eradicate Bigotry, We Need to Confront It
If there is a silver lining to the cloud of Sterling’s diatribe, it is the conversation that has sprung from it, and hopefully will continue.
And that’s why “The Invention of Wings” should be read and discussed. Never again, we say. Let us understand, and let us take action.
Fans of Sue Monk Kidd (you may have read her best-selling “The Secret Life of Bees”) and of historical fiction will not want to miss this book. It is a superb choice for book groups, and this detailed readers guide is a terrific resource to facilitate a discussion.
One of my lucky readers will receive a free copy of “The Invention of Wings.” Please leave a comment below and I will select a random winner.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of “The Invention of Wings” from Viking/Penguin for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation.