Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"Ah, But Your Land is Beautiful"

I recently finished reading this book by Alan Paton. This is the second book of his that I have read and by far my favorite of the two.

The book is set in South Africa during the time of apartheid (1950's). The separation of races and the justification thereof is addressed throughout. I find his writing both difficult at times and yet fascinating. This book particularly. It is told through many forms. Conversations, newspaper clippings, letters to family. As a reader you follow the story through many eyes, yet none of them omniscient and only few spots are narrative. It is an intricately woven story with complex characters that still leave questions in the mind as to whether they were good or bad. To be hated or pitied.

As in all race-related issues, there are rarely clear-cut answers to anything except that equality should be given to all regardless of race, religion, or creed. That's the ideal, how everything really should be. Unfortunately there are still people battling pre-conceived notions of other people and they don't even know it. I often wonder what I would have been like had I grown up in a different time. Would I have joined the Freedom Riders of the 60's or marched with Martin Luther King Jr. Would I have had the guts to speak out against my race and stand for what was right rather than popular? It makes me wonder if I am taking the back seat and don't know it.

How wonderful would it be if we could wave a magic wand and have 300 years of slavery disappear in our history. Not just from the books, but the anger from the hearts. The hurt, the pain, all taken away as if it had never been. The notion that one people is better than another, the perception of lower and upper class as though at the end of the day we aren't all just people trying to do their best.

Paton's book makes you think, it reaches out and touches your heart in unexpected places. I highly recommend it.

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