The Land by Mildred D. Taylor; Phyllis
Fogelman Books: New York, 2001; $17.99
“Can’t figure how you can be so crazy ’bout them white brothers of yours neither, when once y’all grown, they’ll be the boss and you’ll be jus’ another nigger.”
One of the factors that made The Land so interesting was a unique conflict. Paul-Edward grew up with a black mother and a white father during the post—Civil War era. There was still a good deal of hate between the two races in the South. Though slavery was illegal, blacks were still treated like dirt. As Paul-Edward was growing up, he was the proverbial “man without a country.” Blacks didn’t like him because he had white skin and whites didn’t like him because they just knew that down deep he was a black. As I said earlier, this presented a very unique conflict.
Another reason that The Land was so good was that it played my emotions better than Yo-Yo Ma can play the cello. When Paul was trying to win the horse race, my blood pressure rose higher. When Paul was missing his dad because of running away on the train, the next time I saw my dad I hugged him tighter. When Paul was running from the whites, I pulled my bed covers a little closer.
The two main characters are Mitchell, a black who starts out hating Paul-Edward, but eventually—through a deal with him—becomes his best friend. Mitchell isn’t afraid of anything, and has a great sense of humor. The other main character, of course, is Paul himself. He is very intellectual, has a healthy amount of worries, and doesn’t understand why whites hate blacks. These characters’ clashing personalities give the book pizzazz and bring two, usually opposite, views of each situation into the mix, making it a lot more fun to read.
Most people would say this book is simply preaching against racism, but the moral goes deeper than color. The Land is not just simply about blacks vs. whites, but it tells a story of how through friendship, love, and determination a man beat the odds and made his dream a reality. It doesn’t matter if it’s a black who wants to own land in a white man’s country, or a boy who wants to become president when he grows up, the moral is that nice guys don’t necessarily finish last. The Land is fast-paced, a quick read, and very well written. I normally do not even enjoy historical fiction, but this was one of the best books I have read in a while.