I struggled to sleep for two nights but I can’t put down the book. And so in less than 48 hours, I finished reading Lalita Tademy’s Cane River.
Cane River is about four women slaves of different generation who, silenced by their time’s social mores, struggled to rise above the condition of their birth. They were born slaves because of the color of their skin.
I have read and watched about slavery and discrimination but this is the first time I was drawn into the hearts and minds of the slaves. I couldn’t imagine not owning my own person. I couldn’t imagine being uncertain about where I will be tomorrow. It will be my life’s nightmare to be separated from my children – because my masters decided to do so. It would be hell to be informed – after the fact – that my husband is on his way to another place because my masters decided to do so. I couldn’t even describe how it would be not to own your own body, to be available at the whim and the pleasure of people society declares to be above you. And how degrading could it be to line up like a horde of animals for auction? Whoever bids the highest for you owns you from thereon until he pleases… and off you will be up for sale again. All these emotions and more were endured by Elisabeth, Suzette, Philomene and Emily.
But they were four strong women who dealt with their circumstances differently in different times in the most circumspect way they can. They had the edge because of their beauty. They had the edge because they were women. Each of them died victorious in the limited way they were allowed, knowing that they were able to win some of the battles they chose to matter.