Monday, October 27, 2008

The Raven: A Biography of Sam Houston: Winner, Biography - 1930

The Raven: A Biography of Sam Houston
By: Marquis James
1929, The Bobbs-Merrill Company

Being a Texan and one whose family has lived in Texas for generations (since before it was a state) I was SUPER excited about reading Marquis James's The Raven. I know that Texans can be annoying about their home state, but if you are from there you understand the deep pride we have in our state's history. I will qualify this by saying that I do not hate your state, or country for that matter. In fact, I love to travel and even live in different places to see how the people live and what it is about their location that they have to be proud of. No matter where you come from there are things in it's past to be proud of. I hope that you are able to find that about your home.

OK, now we can move on. I was excited about reading The Raven because I spent a good deal of my childhood learning about Sam Houston's role in Texas history, but I realized that I knew very little about the actual man. For those unfamiliar with Texas history, Sam Houston was not only a Congressman and Governor of Tennessee, but he was president of the Republic of Texas, Senator from the state of Texas and Governor of Texas. I had know idea what a wild life Houston lived and what a romantic figure he was in America during his lifetime.

The physical descriptions that I read about him gave him a type of John Wayne-image in my mind (maybe not the real John Wayne, but definitely the type of characters he played). He was tall, handsome, and mysterious. A free spirit, Houston a good part of his life living with the Cherokee - even becoming a type of adopted son to a great Cherokee chief. The Cherokee were responsible for his nickname, The Raven.

I could go on and on about all that I learned about Sam Houston in James's book, but I won't bore you. The book is not difficult reading and not so boring either. If you like biographies, I think you'll like this book, but I would be interested to see if there are any non-Texans out there who have read The Raven and if they found it as interesting as I did.

(** Special Note ** I do apologize for being late in posting. For those of you who don't know, I am in school right now and find it difficult to motivate myself to any extra writing. But, I continue to read whether I write or not. Thank you to those who do read the blog. I will do my best to not let you down!)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Scarlet Sister Mary - Winner, Novel/Fiction, 1929

Scarlet Sister Mary
By: Julia Peterkin
Bobbs-Merrill, 1928

"...the story of the harlot of Blue Brook Plantation.''

Bobbs-Merrill used the above quote in their promotions for Julia Peterkin's Scarlet Sister Mary, and I found it to be the best summary of her book. The story is simply about the life of Sister Mary who can't seem to settle down and brings 9 children with 9 different fathers into the world along the way. I often wondered, as I read, where the book was going. I guess the problem that needs resolution along the way is whether Mary will ever settle down. For me that is not enough to keep me interested for more than 300 pages. Needless to say, I didn't really enjoy the story of Scarlet Sister Mary.

The value of Peterkin's book, I believe, is not found in the story but in her grasp of the post-emancipation culture, superstitions, religion, and language specific to the Gullah people of the low country plantations of the South Carolina and Georgia coasts. Peterkin lived in South Carolina and probably gained some of her insight as a plantation mistress after her marriage in 1903. The characters in Scarlet Sister Mary speak in the Gullah dialect, which can slow down the reading, but gives a good sense of the people she describes. I wouldn't put Scarlet Sister Mary on any list of books I enjoy, but I would say it is a good read to give a sense of post-Civil War plantation life.