Reading Wednesday: National History and a Family’s History

Just a couple of books kept me busy this week…

  • ◦ Slavery by Another Name (Blackmon)
  • ◦ Skinfolk (Guteri)

Most of the week I was reading the emotionally heavy – if you don’t feel sad, angry, or outraged at times, you might need to make sure you have a pulse – Slavery by Another Name.

This book details the labor system – the one-sided penal (cannot say “justice”) system – that developed in the post-Civil War, then post-Reconstruction South. Lest we get too deep in some grayed miasma of “history” it grounds the story periodically back to one family’s journey in that time.

Sheriffs and their local judges developed special relationships with local companies and preferred acquirers of their prisoners. Arrests surged and fell, not as acts of crime increased or receded, but in tandem to the varying needs of the buyers of labor.

Slavery By Another Name
(emphasis mine)

It’s powerful. And upsetting. And important.

Brace yourself for the number of times you will read infuriating phrases like, “the letter was filed without response,” and “the complaint was ignored,” and “the matter was dropped” and “no charges were filed.”

But I was also reading another story grounded in one family’s journey. Skinfolk is the family history of a very much socially engineered family, with all the best intentions but not always the best outcomes.

That is where our story began, in that backyard, guarded by a white picket fence, hidden by nature, in that ark, where we were arranged two by two, in a small town where we were an experiment.


This one was reviewed on a recent installment of podcast Some of My Best Friends Are and I waitlisted it immediately. I read it as fast as I could – it’s deep and worth savoring – but I could feel the line forming for it so I made it a priority.

Which by the way whoever still has the next serial novel I’m waiting for at my local library and has had it for 3 weekswrap it up already. It’s not that long or heavy a read. Finish it up or return it. I’m waiting.