Tag Archive: race

“Queen of Palmyra” Book Review

I just finished reading Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin.  I highly recommend this book— the writing is honest and beautiful. Plus, Minrose Gwin is a Kenan Eminent Professor of English at UNC and Co-Editor of the Southern Literary Journal.

Book description:

*”I need you to understand how ordinary it all was. . . .”

In the turbulent southern summer of 1963, Millwood’s white population steers clear of “Shake Rag,” the black section of town. Young Florence Forrest is one of the few who crosses the line. The daughter of a burial insurance salesman with dark secrets and the town’s “cake lady,” whose backcountry bootleg runs lead further and further away from a brutal marriage, Florence attaches herself to her grandparents’ longtime maid, Zenie Johnson. Named for Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, Zenie treats the unwanted girl as just another chore, while telling her stories of the legendary queen’s courage and cunning. The more time Florence spends in Shake Rag, the more she recognizes how completely race divides her town, and her story, far from ordinary, bears witness to the truth and brutality of her times—a truth brought to a shattering conclusion when Zenie’s vibrant college-student niece, Eva Greene, arrives that fateful Mississippi summer. Minrose Gwin’s The Queen of Palmyra is an unforgettable evocation of a time and a place in America—a nuanced, gripping story of race and identity.*

The beauty of this book is Gwin’s style of writing.  She captures the innocence of Florence through her pure, naive observations. There is a soft spot in our hearts for Florence because she is the only character we meet who is untainted by the racial issues seeping in to her town.

Gwin also has a way of letting the reader see the larger problems before Florence does- because, presumably, we are less naive than she is.  For example, Gwin describes a box that Florence’s daddy has- a box that he keeps in the basement and brings out with him every night.  As Florence describes the box from a very young perspective, our faces start to bunch up because we realize what evil Florence’s dad possesses before she even knows it.  On the back of the book is written: “I need you to understand how ordinary it all was. . . .” We soon realize how important this statement is throughout the entire novel and, also, how heartbreakingly true it is.

This novel is so inspiring, I was so motivated to write my own stories while reading it. Gwin tells us this story from a fresh perspective.  She also teaches us that we don’t always have to pull out fancy words and the thesaurus when writing a novel.  Sometimes, simplicity is the best way to let a story shine.

-Sarah Diedrick


President Obama

President Obama! Right now it’s the sweetest phrase in the human language.

I’m 19 years old and I never thought this would be possible. I never thought I would see a black president of the United States.

As a little girl I was told the phrase “you can be anything you want to be” had its limitations. I was told I needed to work harder to prove my worth. In fact, I needed to work harder just to be a part of the playing field, never mind playing on a level field. As a little girl, I never dreamed I would see the day the world would change.

But it has.

Before taking office or even announcing his cabinet, President-elect Barack Obama has not only made history but he has changed lives. He’s made America believe in herself again, and he has reached beyond the borders of our nation to touch people in faraway places.

I see so much potential for not only my future, but everyone’s future. How amazing, how life changing, will it be for young black children to look into the TV screen at the president of United States and see someone that looks like them.

I’m just so proud of the United States and the fact that we’re finally moving beyond race; not treating people based on the color of their skin, but evaluating them on the content of their character.

But we’re not done yet.

Obama Biden election

I think I’ve made it pretty obvious that I am beyond thrilled Barack Obama is the next president of our nation. Given the state of the country and the world I don’t think there is a better man for the job.

However, there’s an enormous amount of work to be done, least of which involve campaign promises. And it’s important that as a nation we don’t allow this election to become a blank check like 2004.

Just because we elected Obama, doesn’t mean he can enter into office and do whatever he pleases. He is a public servant and as such he has to answer to the people. As a nation, we have to hold Obama accountable.

That’s probably one of the biggest failings the American people face coming off of the Bush administration. We just accepted what the administration presented to us, never questioning their agenda or the veracity of their information.

Part of the determinants of whether or not we rise to the occasion of “our defining moment” is our willingness or unwillingness to repeat the mistakes we allowed to take place of the previous administration.

I believe in Obama. I have faith. But we’ve got to remember that this campaign was about us, the American people and that’s the way his administration should be as well. We’ve got to make sure he continues to be a man of his word and doesn’t forget who got him where he is.

By Brittany Murphy