Land, The

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by Taylor, Mildred D. (Penguin Putnam/ Phyllis Fogelman, 2001 ISBN 0803719507. Order Info.) Novel. Grades 4+.

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Review

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The main character in this book, Paul Edward, is the Grandfather of Cassie Logan from Mildred D. Taylor's Newbery Award winning Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry making this a prequel.

Paul was born from the partnership of a slave and the white master of the plantation in Mississippi. Slavery ended when he was still very young but he, his sister, and his mother have stayed on the plantation. Paul's mother is the cook and housekeeper.

Paul's father acknowledges his black children and they are part of his family although they can't sit at the dinner table with them when they have white guests and they live with their mother. Paul is very close to his white brothers -- one in particular is his best friend.

Everything changes when they are 13 and his brother sides with some white boys against him. When his father takes his brother's side against Paul and whips him in public Paul is humiliated and enraged. It is the beginning of his quest to find land of his own.

Paul is harrassed by many of the blacks for his whiteness and not part of his white family because of his blackness. Against these odds he and a black worker on his father's plantation have become close friends and the book is very much a friendship/adventure story of the two of them.

Together they work as loggers until Paul finds work as a furniture maker and raises enough money to begin the process of purchasing land of his own.

This is not a book about the cruelty of saddistic slave owners nor of the euphoria of emancipation. Taylor humanizes the father and mother's efforts to raise their two mixed-race children in a violently racist world. This is the story of the cruelty of the slave system itself and the aftermath of hatred.

Paul Edwards is sometimes more perfectly talented than seems realistic reflecting, perhaps, the oral history origins of this book. You can still detect the voice of a grandparent describing a beloved grandfather's skill in the story of his quest for land.

Taylor has done much, however, to make the book gritty and realistic in all other aspects. The book won the 2002 Coretta Scott King Award.

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