Monday, June 13, 2011
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
In Jordan's prize-winning debut, prejudice takes many forms, both subtle and brutal. It is 1946, and city-bred Laura McAllan is trying to raise her children on her husband's Mississippi Delta farm—a place she finds foreign and frightening. In the midst of the family's struggles, two young men return from the war to work the land. Jamie McAllan, Laura's brother-in-law, is everything her husband is not—charming, handsome, and haunted by his memories of combat. Ronsel Jackson, eldest son of the black sharecroppers who live on the McAllan farm, has come home with the shine of a war hero. But no matter his bravery in defense of his country, he is still considered less than a man in the Jim Crow South. It is the unlikely friendship of these brothers-in-arms that drives this powerful novel to its inexorable conclusion.
The men and women of each family relate their versions of events and we are drawn into their lives as they become players in a tragedy on the grandest scale. As Kingsolver says of Hillary Jordan, "Her characters walked straight out of 1940s Mississippi and into the part of my brain where sympathy and anger and love reside, leaving my heart racing. They are with me still."
Such a heartbreaking story. Jamie McAllen and Ronsel Jackson both served in the United States Army. The difference? Jamie was white and Ronsel was black. Unfortunately, African-Americans were treated like crap in the United States, while over in Europe they were provided with the rights and respect they deserved. After living in Europe, Ronsel returned to Mississippi thinking the ideas and situation may have changed. It did not. Ronsel was put through hell after serving out country just because his skin was a different color. Jamie was his friend who tried to stick-up for him and ended up injured himself. The story is told in an interesting way. Each chapter is told from a different perspective, but the overall story of each coincides with the other.
This is a great historical telling of the discrimination that took place. African-Americans were expected to protect our country and go to war, but they were not given the rights they were entitled to receive. They were still treated like dirt and shown little to no respect. It is unfortunate to know this is part of our history, but it is. The events that took place during this time are something we can all learn from so the same mistakes are not made in the future. Hillary Jordan did an amazing job telling a story that took the perspectives of both sides.