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Daily Helping for November 19th, 2020 – Andrea Levy – The Long Song

A photo of the front cover of The Long Song by Andrea Levy.

A couple of years ago I made a pledge to read more books about places and historical time periods that I know nothing about. Non-fiction books, yes. But historical novels as well, because they are the best of both worlds. You get to learn about something new, while connecting with and getting invested in characters and their lives. Today’s helping is the perfect example of this. The Long Song by Andrea Levy is about the history of slavery in Jamaica, and it’s a subject I certainly knew little about going in. It should go without saying that this book often wasn’t an easy read. But it absolutely was a good read.

What intrigued me the most was the decision to chronicle the transitional period that followed the abolition of slavery in Jamaica. So many stories are either set before or after this historical moment. This was the first time I’ve read one that focuses primarily on the impact of abolition for the people involved. What does it mean psychologically to be told you’re a slave one day and a free person the next? How do the power dynamics change between the former slaves and their former owners? From a purely narrative point of view, it’s a veritable wealth of possibilities. However, from a historical point of view, it was a sadly unsurprising exploration of the unfathomable depths of colonialism’s roots. Not just physically, but mentally as well.

I finished The Long Song absolutely wanting to know more about this time period. Thankfully, Andrea Levy included a list of resources at the end of the book for further reading. There’s also a list of discussion questions, so if anyone wants to have a mini-book club, just let me know. I’ll happily talk more about it.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!