Selected Book Reviews
Review by Janet K. Brennan
This intense and moving book by author, Mary E. Neighbour is one that I will not soon forget. Indeed no one will. I hesitate to go into any of the cliches while reviewing this book for Speak Right On is anything but a cliche'. It is a modest translation and story of how the author sees and portrays the life of Dred Scott and his family and owners. It is also a deep search and discovery of the man, Dred Scott and how he felt about the world around him; a world that was fraught with anger and envy through a child's eyes and then as he matured, one that was unjust and racial. It did not take him long to realize that his place was at the bottom of the stack of humanity trying to survive in a country that was twisted and driven by greed and power. Yet this incredible human being managed to rise above the plotted and stony road ahead of him, including the politics of the plantation. Because of an intense love for story telling as well as love for his fellow human beings, no matter what color or religion, Scot never lost respect for himself.
"White folk typically say we's born slaves, whereas a black will tell you: "I was born in slavery." There's a world of difference. A child needs to be trained to be a slave - it don't come natural. So when they say we ain't educated, that ain't strictly true, neither. We educated in the peculiar ways of slavery.
Veteran author, Mary E. Neighbour shows a deep understanding of the plight of the African American from the early years of slavery to present day. She demonstrates through excellent writing skill the love and generosity the close relationships held by a bond of family these beautiful people used to survive the years of slavery. This was a difficult task considering that the white slave owners were constantly separating them, an abusive management tool that proved quite effective.
The loving relationship between Gran and Dred Scott is beautifully and warmly described by author Neighbour and( found myself going back repeatedly to the roots of this love. He often describes his Gran as" scented with cinnamon, warm and safe when her large arms were around him."
This book flowed in and out of my heart, wandered into my soul and stayed there. It is written with beautiful and flowing sentences. I could sense the poet in this author, as well as the gifted understanding of human nature, as her words flew across the pages of this book. I must also mention that the book was written artistically and perfectly constructed as author Neighbour shifts from first person to third, an extremely difficult accomplishment that only seasoned writers can accomplish. It is, in fact, a narrative and a memoir of Dred Scott under one cover as we jump inside of Dred's mind while he attempts to comprehend the realities of an unfair and complicated life.
CHAPTER 15 - ROAD of SOULS; page 165
When a tree loses its leaves in the autumn, that's natural, and I reckon a tree don't mind it no more'n I mind it when hairs fall offen my head. But when a spring storm rips the new leaves away, snaps off he branches, I wonder: do that hurt the tree? And after the storm, will that tree feel the other deaths that follow, like how no bird will come nesting?
Did author, Mary E. Neighbour share the spirit of Dred Scott while she was writing this book? I have come to the conclusion that she did. This book will rest on the top shelf in my own library, and I highly recommend it to everyone who enjoys fine books.