Friday, October 5, 2012

Queen by Alex Haley Book Review

Queen by Alex Haley

The biography Queen by Alex Haley offers an interesting window into American history, seen through several generations of the author's family. Queen was Haley's paternal grandmother, a biracial child of the plantation born before the Civil War, but she doesn't appear on the pages until the latter third of the book. The story begins in Ireland with the Jackson family in 1797, where son James is banished and must emigrate to the New World. He becomes a pioneer who helps tame the wild frontier, becoming very wealthy in the process, and erects a plantation estate in Alabama. His son Jass takes the story through the Civil War, fathering Queen through a pet slave named Easter.

Queen by Alex Haley

Southerners held some shocking beliefs, like all men were not created equal and that blacks were animals without souls. They also thought the white man had to take care of negroes because they were too ignorant to take care of themselves. Their pre-Civil War economy couldn't exist without cheap slave labor, and they fought to the death to maintain their way of life. The stark philosophical differences over slavery between the Northern and Southern States culminate in the bloody Civil War, which devastates Jackson's plantation. The lies undergirding the South have to be confronted and their will broken, but the bitterness Confederates feel after losing the Civil War is palpable.

60% Off at - Code: LBF6
However, the problem of slavery has to be addressed. Sally Jackson thinks that "there never should have been a union" eighty years earlier, and that the country should have been divided into two nations at its inception, one with slaves and one without, but she also acknowledges that slavery would not have been an ideal to fight for the way liberty is. Her beliefs typify Southern hypocrisy, allowing the easy rape of black women, mixed race children denied paternity by their white fathers, and the dehumanization of people. Though negroes were thought of as livestock, the whites who slept with them never considered their behavior to be bestiality, a great sin in the Southern Bible belt. Miscegenation was taboo and an anathema, but still practiced by the white massas without retribution.

Tragic parts of the book include the Indians' Trail of Tears, the sale of Annie, Queen's betrayal by Mrs. Benson, the murder of Davis, the burning of a barn where newly freed blacks are hiding and Queen's rape by Digby. Despite the sad parts of the biography, redemptive acts abound. Cap'n Jack teaches Queen how to read and write, and her massa/father brings her children's books. Jass also has an epiphany when Easter dies because he realizes that she does have a soul. Most heartwarming is the unfailing love of Alec Haley toward his troubled wife Queen. The future for their progeny is bright, and only two generations later, a boy named after Alec becomes a celebrity writer to relate their story to the world.

The Jackson and Haley family history is set during the tumultuous early years of the United States, when the founding fathers' ideals were sorely put to the test. The country eventually does the right thing and conquers her hypocrisy over slavery, the growing pains she experiences on her way to becoming a great nation. Readers will find sad nuggets of truth in Queen, but it is good to be aware of America's mistakes to prevent their recurrence. The novel complements Roots and both books should be of great interest to any student of American history, particularly black history.

Source: Alex Haley, Queen, the Story of an American Family (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1993).

Read more book reviews:

No comments:

Post a Comment