Adventures in Reading

Slavery Without Submission/Joy in the Morning
September 3, 2007, 9:33 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

All summer I have been trying to make my way through Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. It has been slow going and in an attempt to ever complete it I am trying to read one chapter between other books. It is not that People’s History is boring or that it is a difficult read but after repeatedly having early U.S. history drilled into my head throughout my public education, I find it a struggle to sit through it one more time.

The other afternoon (after finishing Pride & Prejudice) I picked up Zinn and read the chapter “Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation Without Freedom.” People’s History looks at the minority perspective in history and the book does breathe fresh air into the usual listing of presidents, battles, and dates in history. Additionally, it allows for a much clearer view of how some historical, social conditions have led to modern conditions.

On a bit more of a fun note (for myself) the library finally got Joy in the Morning (1963) by Betty Smith in. I mentioned this after reading her A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as I had no idea she had written any other novels. After opening Joy I immediately did a double take as it very much seems a sequel to Brooklyn. The summary of the novel suggests this could be Francie’s younger sister’s story (from Brooklyn) but I disagree and would argue it picks right up again with Francie. At the end of Brooklyn, Francie meets a young man at junior college who is going to move out west and go to law school to become a judge. This is basically how it ends. Joy begins with a young man and woman who have moved to the mid-west from Brooklyn where the man is going to school to study law. Any of this seem familiar?

Smith’s writing style changes a lot and I can certainly see why Brooklyn is considered her greatest work though Joy has been quite terrific and hard to put down. Where Brooklyn suggested much of the “seedier” side of life, Joy comes right out and says it: sex, sexual abuse, contraception, unwanted pregnancies, etc. The married couple lives in a small college town and must deal with both families disapproving of the marriage and consistently referring to Annie, the wife, as a “bad girl” and citing their reason for marriage was Annie becoming pregnant.

Smith describes the book as the story of a college town that becomes a look at the anatomy of the marriage. I can get behind this. If you liked the movie Love Story you will probably get a kick out of Joy in the Morning.

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