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Tina's Reading Books

Genre fiction lover:  Romance, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Urban Fantasy

Twelve Years A Slave

Twelve Years a Slave - Solomon Northrup

Despite all of the accolades and my general liking of the actors, I had no desire to see the film version of this book.


However, at my household at the dinner table, my husband and I use that time to engage our children in very freewheeling conversations about a variety of current events topics.  These conversation may be be fairly innocuous ('What did you guys think about the last episode of Community') or more serious topics (discussing the civil rights implications of the recent proposed legislation in Arizona that would allow businesses to not serve gays).


My husband, who had gone to see the movie, was talking about it.  My oldest son (14) was listening very interestedly and asking some very astute questions.  My husband is a History professor whose area of specialization is Modern US was (as is his normal M.O) answering the questions both specific to the movie yet also giving my sons a lot of additional contextual historical information.


Sensing my son's interest in the story, my husband asked if he wanted to see the movie himself, but he demurred.  Instead he said he'd rather read the book.  I was so surprised something could tear him away from his sports & various wired devices even for a few moments, I decided to join him in a buddy read.


I am glad I did.  While I still have no desire to see the movie, I found the book both harrowing in its relentless detail of abuse and yet almost clinical in its examination of Simon's plight.  While of course I felt horror while reading, I also felt a curious distance.


Some of it may have to do with the 'voice' as it is written in the language and cadence of its time period.  It reminded me of some of the diaries our family owns of great and great-great grandparents who would catalogue even the most mundane matters of their day.  While Simon's narrative is far from mundane, the relentless detail may have a bit of a numbing effect.


Some of it may have to do with the fact that the story is written by a third party.  Simon's words, yes, but still filtered through a writer/editor that lends it some distance.


Whatever the case, I am glad of the distance.  I don't think that I could have read this comfortably without it.  I found the story affecting and sobering and powerful.  And very, very sad.


I have not had the chance to see what my son thought of it.  However, judging from a few comments he's let drop, he is understanding and appreciating some parts of his own history in a new and more personal way. 


And this makes me very, very glad.