Steven's Notebook

Look Ma - No Hands!

Darktown, by Thomas Mullen

Atlanta Georgia, 1948 – quite a different city than we know today. Darktown is a historical novel telling the story of the first negro police officers here; men with what has always been a difficult job, made even tougher given the racial bias of the time.

Many pages were, like those of Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, difficult and almost painful to read, but it’s important to face and learn from our history – a long and tough journey along the road toward democracy, freedom and equality for all.

I know, there are plenty of people who say “it’s over, it’s in the past – get over it.” They might have said the same thing about slavery in ’48, the year in which this book was set. But cultural history has multi-generational impact. We don’t think twice about a coworker who’s great-grandparents moved to the US from Italy and never looked back, working to speak with a bit of an accent and sharing his family recipes. Or those of us who do our best to never wear orange because of our great-grandfather‘s struggles. I have a friend who is vocal about his refusal to buy German- or Japanese-manufactured vehicles because his grandfather fought in WWII. Families and people-groups have history, and they’re all part of the fabric of our nation.

The characters, in particular some of the white offers, seem a bit over-the-top but that’s when reading from my current-day suburban mindset. When I put myself into the story, I find myself thinking that plenty of Dunlows likely existed; it’s Rakestraw and his internal struggle that portray the hope that the novel needs.

recommended: Darktown: A Novel by Thomas Mullen (Be prepared though; it’s set in a period in which racial epithets were thrown with impunity; you’ll see ‘the N word’ and other slurs used quite a bit, though never glorified or used lightly. It’s historical, be ready for it.)

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