Before I get into this, let me explain something. When I initially looked at the 2015 Reading Challenge list, I saw one specific option that was going to be difficult: “A book you were supposed to read in school, but didn’t.” I thought about it, but honestly couldn’t recall a single book that I skipped. See, I’ve always loved to read and while fantasy is my first reading love, I’ve read plenty of other books that are not fantasy. I never skimmed a book. I never skipped a book. I never read the “Cliff’s Notes”.
However, I remembered one book that seemed to get referenced a lot in the curriculum we used in the private Christian school that I attended, but was never required to read. It was Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Now, I don’t remember a single thing my school work said about Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but that is the one book I remember it mentioned.
That said, it has been a long time since a book has made me cry as much as Uncle Tom’s Cabin. There were numerous moments where I just bawled my eyes out. In case you don’t know, while Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a work of fiction, a lot of the situations in the book are based on true life events. These same type of situations happened to real people.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin takes place mostly in Kentucky and Louisiana, when slavery was still active. It primarily follows two black slaves, Uncle Tom and Eliza. Tom and Eliza’s little four-year-old boy are reluctantly sold to a slave trader by their master to pay off some debts. Eliza, when she realizes that her child has been sold and will be taken away from her, flees with him. Tom, however, goes meekly with the trader, holding to the promise from his master’s wife and son that they will buy him back as soon as they are able.
The struggles of these two main characters struck my heart. Someone taking my children away is probably one of my greatest fears. On top of that, to be told that you can’t really love them because of the color of your skin… well, let’s say I would have given some of those people a piece of my mind! I wept at the thought of those children, who would never see their father or mother again. Or the husbands and wives who suddenly found one sold and never even got to say good-bye.
On a less emotional note, some of the dialog was difficult to read at times, given that the author tried to write the dialects as authentically as possible. There’s a lot of Bible referenced throughout the story, since both Uncle Tom and Eliza are portrayed as Christians. I spotted several doctrinal errors in the beliefs (which always gives me a little twist in the gut), and as well as the misinterpretations certain characters used to justify what they were doing. Oh, I wanted to say a thing or two to some of them as well!
Overall, I loved Uncle Tom’s Cabin, though I had to admit I was ashamed of our past history in the dehumanization of those of African decent. It’s an awful thing when we lower man to the level of an animal. It also made me quite nostalgic for my friends in Ghana, West Africa, where I lived for six months in 2003. One of these days I’ll talk about some of my memories and adventures there.
Next week, I’ll hopefully be reviewing The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. Since that is my “Book you started but never finished,” I’m expecting it to be a little bit of a tougher read than some of these others.
What have you read this week? Are you joining the 2015 Reading Challenge?