This is the story of the United States. It starts nearly at the beginning, with the arrival of African slaves in Spanish colonies, and finishes with the election of Barack Obama as president. It is the story of Kadir Nelson's family, told as a 1st-person account from a person who would be Nelson's grandmother, though of course, he has written the story. This book can't tell everything, can't tell every story, and so those most famous names, names like Booker T. Washington and Medgar Evers and Ida B. Wells are mentioned really only in passing. But then, I know about them, already, from other books and from school, and in this book, I learned about some events that are astonishingly new to me.
The fact that southerners tried to prevent the Great Migration to the north, where the phrase "The Real McCoy" originates--there are decades that black history studies skip over. We learn the Middle Passage, the Civil War, then Skip to the 1960s and the Civil Rights Movement in school. The race riots of the prior to the first world war, for example, are missed. The horrors of Reconstruction, glossed over. And they're certainly not discussed in any detail here, because--well, this is pretty much an overview. It's a 100-page book full of majestic paintings, sometimes full page, sometimes in two-page spreads, and it can't covere everything. But now I know what to look for, when I look for more information.
What a gorgeous book. It made me cry, and the paintings, oh my goodness. Astonishing, and beautiful, and sometimes ugly, and incredibly moving.
My only problem is that, it's ostensibly nonfiction. But the false 1st person narrative complicates that, which is kind of tragic. Especially when I don't think it added much at all, with the "chile"s and the "honey"s thrown in almost like an after thought. I'd take away a star for that, because it's a--actually, it's a big problem. But I just can't bring myself to, and so I won't.