I wanted to share a few quotes from James McBride's recent novel, The Good Lord Bird, which won the National Book Award last year. This was a long book and the language is crude, but McBride brilliantly shows how many of the white supremacist ideas in the antebellum U.S. are still around today. The novel is narrated from the point of view of a preteen African-American boy who somewhat involuntarily joins abolitionist John Brown during the years leading up to the Harpers Ferry raid. Below are the quotes that stuck out to me:
"Like most things in life, you don't know nothing till you want to know it, and don't see what you don't want to see."
"He was like everybody in war. He believed God was on his side. Everybody got God on their side in a war. Problem is, God ain’t tellin’ nobody who He’s for."
"Some things in this world just ain't meant to be, not in the times we want 'em to, and the heart has to hold it in this world as a remembrance, a promise for the world that's to come. There's a prize at the end of all of it, but still, that's a heavy load to bear."
"Whatever he believed, he believed. It didn’t matter to him whether it was really true or not. He just changed the truth till it fit him. He was a real white man."
"Truth is, lying come natural to all Negroes during slave time, for no man or woman in bondage ever prospered stating their true thoughts to the boss. Much of colored life was an act, and the Negroes that sawed wood and said nothing lived the longest."
"Being a Negro’s a lie, anyway. Nobody sees the real you. Nobody knows who you are inside. You just judged on what you are on the outside whatever your color. Mulatto, colored, black, it don’t matter. You just a Negro to the world."
The book reminded me of Oh Brother Where Art Thou, and had its fair share of humor:
"--Tell me. Which books in the Bible do you favor?"
"--Oh, I favors 'em all," Pa said. "But I mostly like Hezekiel, Ahab, Trotter, and Pontiff the Emperor."
McBride's work of historical fiction is a wild ride. It prompted me to check out his memoir, The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother from the library. I expect I'll blog about it as it promises to touch on race and religion.