I’m way behind on my Classics Reading Challenge, I think. It’s just that my stereotyping the classics as stiff, boring books is so strong that whenever I think of reading a book commonly referred to as a classic, I get turned off and run to the comfort of a fantasy novel. At the beginning of April I treated myself to a trip to Philadelphia and read Jack London’s The Call of the Wild on the way there. I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did (I do believe this sentence pops up in all my reviews of classic novels). As soon as I read the first sentence, I was hooked and knew I would have to pause reading Mary Norris Between You & Me until I was done.
The Call of the Wild is about Buck, a half St. Bernard and half Scottish shepherd dog, who is abducted from his sheltered life in Santa Clara Valley, California, and traded into the toils of the unforgiving North to repay a debt. Though taken from the comfort and surroundings he knew, Buck proves to be intelligent and resourceful, quickly learning how to maneuver his surroundings and adapting to the changes and strangers he encounters. His adaptability, instincts, observant nature, and large size help to keep him alive and prevent other dogs from picking on him. He is owned by several masters but never loses his independence. After the loss of John Thornton, his master and friend who loved him dearly, Buck loses all vestiges of civilization and returns to the wild as a leader of a pack of wolves.
I’m late, I know. BUT as my way for commemorating Black History Month on my blog, I decided to read Native Son by Richard Wright and boy was I blown away by it! I mean Wright got down in that book and analyzed the shit out of the social structure and race relations of the 1940s. Native Son is a powerful book and even today I’m sure it can rile some people. (I got pretty pissed while reading it.)
Native Son tells the story of Black people oppressed in America through the life of Bigger Thomas, a 20-year-old Black man. Life is hard for Bigger and his people. They live in deficient houses and receive meager pay. They are unable to move beyond the Black Belt, an area in Chicago where Blacks are designated to live. Segregation is so tight that it’s hard for Bigger to envision a promising future for himself. He tries to avoid thinking of this because it makes him feel helpless and powerless. To cope, he becomes angry and puts up a wall behind which he hides, peeking out occasionally at the reality of his life. His family and friends cope in other ways: his mother puts her trust in religion and his girlfriend Bessie numbs herself with alcohol. It’s not until he kills Mary Dalton that Bigger begins to feel as if he can direct his life and that for once he is in charge of what he does and what happens to him.