Uncle Tom’s Cabin -Harriet Beecher Stowe

I recently finished Uncle Tom’s Cabin, as a fan of history and morose literature, I really enjoyed this read.  During an unfortunate period of our history, Stowe took an initiative in the fight for abolition and the equality of humanity in the U.S.  This book was written over a decade befor the Emancipation Proclamation, and I’m sure her writing made a strong fight in the abolitionist movement.

Prior to reading this, I had always heard allusions to ‘Uncle Toms’ being an African American taking a subservient stance toward Caucasians.  I feel the book had a completely different point- a point of forgiveness and kindness.  The atrocities Uncle Tom experienced never faltered his Christian beliefs and his hope that there was a chance of goodness in everything.  As each episode he went through became worse and worse, his love and drive to ‘save’ everyone became stronger.

The book begins with Tom’s owners, the Shelby’s, selling Tom and Henry as a financial decision to help their farm.  Tom submitted to the situation, but Eliza, took her son, Henry, and fled North in hopes of Freedom in Canada.

Tom was taken to sale at an auction in New Orleans and along the way a wealthy man named Augustine St. Claire bought him as a driver and caretaker of his daughter, Eva.  Eva was a delightful girl and as the story drew on it was apparent she was ill and would soon be lost.  Tom enjoyed Eva and her interest in his bible and before she passed away she declared she would be spending the rest of her time in heaven and wished all the people in her life would remember her and strive to treat each other kindly, quit enslaving people and meet her in heaven when their time on Earth was finished.  Upon her death, St. Claire announced he would free Tom and the other slaves, but his life was taken in a pub before he could make the necessary legal provisions to free his slaves.  His wife sent most of the slaves to auction and Tom was bought by Simon Legree.  Legree was an evil man and used two overseers who he pitted against each other.  He was harsh in his treatment of the slaves he owned and resolved that there would be no talk of God or the bible on his land.  He decided one way or another he would beat the religion out of Tom.

Eliza’s story took a different path as she fled North.  She was taken in by a family of Quakers and soon found her husband, George, miraculously coming to the same family on his own path to freedom.  They joined together and found freedom in Canada and lived happily ever after.

This was a fairly sad book, in looking back on the common treatment of slaves in the South, and the indifference of the Northerners. A repeating theme was that many Southern farmers said they planned on freeing their slaves, but this usually was put off too long and their deaths brought their slaves to the auction block to continue their servitude at another plantation.

I’ll finish with my favorite quote of the book, which was from a conversation with Tom and St. Claire –

St. C- “Why Tom, you couldn’t have possibly have earned, by your work, such clothes and such living as I have given you.”

Tom- “Knows all that, Mas’r St. Claire; Mas’r’s been too good; but, Mas’r I’d rather have poor clothes, poor house, poor everything, and have ’em mine, than have the best, and have them any man else’s, – I had so, Mas’r; I think it’s nature, Mas’r.

 

Chain Reaction – Simone Elkeles

A third in the ‘Perfect Chemistry’ series, Chain Reaction is a YA novel that follows the story of Luis Fuentes and Nikki Cruz as they fall in love in Chicago.  The previous two books, Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction, follow Luis’ older brothers Alex and Carlos as they deal with love and gang alliances as young adults.

Luis enters high school and meets Nikki, he knows she’s something he needs in his life. They are from different neighborhoods and have very different lives.  Nikki is from an affluent family with parents who care about appearances and reputations.  Luis is from the rougher side of town, both of his brothers were previously involved with gangs and push him to stay on the straight and narrow.  Luis knows something is going on with the gangs and he wants to have a chance to take them down once and for all to end their association with his family.  Nikki is drawn to Luis but is very hesitant because she fell in love and had a miscarriage with another guy who ended up joining the gang and neglecting her.

As the story builds, Luis is forced by the gang leader to be more and more involved.  One one hand, he knows this will get him closer to bringing them down, but on the other hand, he knows Nikki will have nothing to do with him if he’s a banger.

Okay, it’s mush, but admittedly, it was a fun read, as were the others in this series.  I liked how the novels are set in alternating chapters as both main characters tell their side of the story.  It has the love for the girls and gangs for the boys so even though it’s a love story, I have male students that enjoy reading these books.

Rating:******* 7/10