Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review: The Glory Field


Walter Dean Myers

The Glory Field

By Walter Dean Myers
Scholastic, May 2008

About the Book

Spanning nearly 250 years of African American history, this emotionally charged saga of the Lewis family traces an ongoing battle for freedom and equality. Beginning with young Muhammad Bilal’s journey from Africa in 1753 and ending with a 1990s family reunion set on the plantation where Muhammad was a slave, this series of resonant stories shows how each generation comes of age by taking a stand against oppression.

All through the Civil War, Great Depression, and civil rights movement, the family’s strength and determination continue unabated. In his typically taut, economic prose, Myers (Somewhere in the Darkness) illuminates shadowy corners of history and reveals the high cost-and the excruciatingly slow process-of justice. The obstacles facing the Lewis family will be remembered as clearly as their triumphs, and readers will come away from this novel with both a broader perspective on social conflicts and a more profound understanding of the past.

My Review

Recently released in a new paperback edition, The Glory Field is a true must-read. Why? It’s practically perfect in every way. It is a novel that traces a family from its Sierra Leone roots to what was at the time of its publishing modern-day, urban America.

The Glory Field loosely weaves together the story of one family through multiple generations. Our story begins with a brief vignette (1753) focusing on Muhammad Bilal, a young boy who is captured and sold into slavery in the South. Many settings, many narrators, many individual stories and legacies that collectively capture the African-American experience: 1753, 1864, 1900, 1930, 1964, 1994. It is an emotional, well-written, almost poetic journey. Very heartfelt. Very real. Very moving. The characterization is wonderful.

I really came to love and care for all the characters across the generations. I’ve read a few other novels through the years that have sought to tell a multi-generational story, but none have been so effective, so masterfully done.

If you love historical fiction, then you must read this one. It’s a truly great novel.

“We come a long way and we got a long way to go. You can’t make much progress if you don’t leave home, but you can sure mess yourself up if you don’t remember where home is.”

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