Saturday, August 11, 2018

Historical Fiction Review: Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground (Zora and Me #2) by T.R. Simon

38256472Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground (Zora and Me #2) by T.R. Simon
Format:  ARC Paperback
Publisher:  Candlewick Press
Number of pages:  272
Publishing:  September 11th, 2018
Source:  ARC received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Favorite Lines:  "There are two kinds of memory.  One is the ordinary kind, rooted in things that happened, people you knew, and places you went...   The second kind of memory is rooted in the things you live with, the land you live on, the history of where you belong."  


The Cursed Ground is the second book in the Zora &  Me series.  Unfortunately, I missed out on the first book, but both appear to be the historical fictionalized accounts of author Zora Neale Hurston's early childhood.   The story is initially narrated by Carrie and set in 1903 in Eatonville, Florida.   Late one night while sleeping over at her friend Zora's house, Carrie hears horses running wild outside the bedroom window.  She suspects that they belong to Mr. Polk's farm.  Zora immediately wants to investigate and convinces Carrie to come with.  Upon reaching the farm, they find Mr. Polk with a long gash on his arm.  Shortly after, Old Lady Bronson, the local healer or seer shows up and tends to his wound.  When Lady Bronson and Mr. Polk communicate in a language the girls don't understand, they're flabbergasted as Mr. Polk is well known for being mute.  Mrs. Bronson makes a deal with the girls, she'll tell them a story in exchange for their silence about Mr. Polk being able to speak.  

From there the story shifts back in time to 1855 where our second narrator,  Lucia, an orphan serving girl and Prisca, the daughter to the gentleman Don Federico have just found out that Prisca's father has taken a new wife and they will be leaving the Dominican Republic to travel to their new home in Westin, Florida.   Lucia has been a companion for Prisca for most of her life, the two are the best of friends, spending almost every waking moment in each others company.  Yet, following the move to Florida, Lucia becomes a slave within the household.  No longer can the two friends play together, now Lucia has chores and punishments if she doesn't perform her duties.  Lucia tries to adapt to her new life, learning to survive by keeping her emotions and feelings in check but also lives in fear of angering those around her and having the atrocities she witnesses befall her.  She tries very hard not to jeopardize the other slaves around her by not drawing attention to herself.  

Zora & Me is really a story within a story that spans two time periods.  In 1903, we find out the events that led to the attack on Mr. Polk and in 1855 learn about Lucia's life and struggles in Florida.  I found Lucia's story to be the most impactful because of how accurately it portrayed the brutality of slavery, the emotions, feelings, and pain.   The story makes slavery not just something that happened in the past, somewhere else, but something tangible.  Images and characters that you won't forget.  Some parts are sad, heartwrenching and difficult to read, but it is a very important story.  I especially enjoyed the strong theme that "history is a living history, not something you just read in a book, that it is everything your life stood on."  That even in 1903, the girls are facing events that occurred from the past, how they begin to see that the history of slavery is one based on a"hate and desire to have control or power over something seen as inferior."  There are so many powerful messages within Zora & Me making this a valuable teaching tool.   

The ending came together rather quickly for me, partially because I was so engrossed in Lucia's story, but it was important for the reader to be brought up to speed with the historical details of the Jim Crow Laws and Reconstruction to ensure they had the context to be able to follow the events occurring in Zora's hometown.  I read this book in one sitting, it has such a riveting plot and I loved how Lucia's and Carrie's stories intertwined. 

 "History ain't in a book, especially when it comes to folks like us. History is in the lives we lived and the stories we tell each other about those lives."

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