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South Of Haunted Dreams: A Memoir (1997)

South of Haunted Dreams: A Memoir (1997)
4.04 of 5 Votes: 5
0805055746 (ISBN13: 9780805055740)
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South Of Haunted Dreams: A Memoir (1997)
South Of Haunted Dreams: A Memoir (1997)

About book: How do I type a sigh? If you I could figure that out, I would probably type two or three sentences worth. Since it looks like I'm the first person reviewing this book on Goodreads, I might as well tell you what it's about before I comment on it.This is a work of creative non-fiction about a black man who grew up around whites in the North and decides to take a motorcycle trip to the South to find his roots and face the, what he initially believes, ongoing oppression of the black people by the white man. Even though he's never personally faced much racism, he feels the weight of a long oppressed people on his shoulders and is somehow compelled to go to the South and face it head on. The book is essentially a travelogue, with both a physical and mental journey going on, so we slowly see how his perceptions change as he comes to know what the South is actually like.That doesn't sound so bad, right? Indeed the idea of the story isn't bad at all, and the writing is pretty good too – it's no Steinbeck mind you, but it's easy to read and flows well. The problem is that the narrator is just so dang angry for most of the book. Quite literally, the first 100 pages are an angry rant of all the horrible things that have happened in the (surprisingly recent) past. Yes, some horrible things have happened and, yes, horrible things continue to happen, but we get the idea that you're pissed from the first 5 pages of the book – another 95 pages doesn't drive the point home anymore than it already has. Even when that anger has mellowed out a bit, it still seems to pop back up over and over. An example of this is the narrator meets some white folk, a number of different times, who he expects to be mean and bigoted, but turn out to be super nice to him, and even though he's like "I've completely changed my mind about what the South is," he goes right back to where he was before at the beginning of the next chapter. It's not till the very end of the book that he really mellows out, and by that point you're just fed up with him.Another issue that I had is that the story is far too focused on the narrator's opinion of things. We're supposed to be going on this journey with the guy, but he seems more interested in convincing us his own personal agenda than taking us along for a journey of self-discovery. In fact, the story seems to be more of a personal soapbox than, well, a story.The thing that gets me, though, is that I really really wanted to like the book. The author actually came to our English class for a couple days and he seems like a really interesting person. He's not at all angry in real life (this book was written 20 years ago, so maybe he was angry back then) and it seems like he has all these great stories he could tell. Perhaps his more recent work is better – it's only published in France, in French, where he now lives – but I don't really have any interest after this book. Anyway, I got my book signed by him, which is neat, but I didn't really care for the book, which is too bad...Overall, while this isn't anywhere near the worst book I've ever read, it's still not very good. Perhaps some people will enjoy it, but I sure didn't. Not recommended.
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