Native Subjects

I’m gearing up for some massive reading alongside my students this spring.  First up is Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which presents me with an interesting (and complex!) discussion opportunity: an Iowa native (with more than a whiff of the East Coast about her, and traces of an Oxford accent) lecturing a class full of Kentuckians on a novel in which a slave woman carries her child across the ice of the Ohio River in order to flee slavery (Kentucky) and run for freedom (Ohio).  Let’s hope we’re all entering into the discussion in a spirit of generosity and kindness . . .


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4 Responses to Native Subjects

  1. Mother-of-the-bride says:

    Could I sit in on that class? It is my opinion that the book should be required reading in high school and college. Discussion will be interesting!

  2. Erin says:

    It has already been really interesting, and we’re only 100 pages in. My students have headed straight into the hard questions (Why does that slave commit suicide when they take her child from her? What is the author doing with that example? Why does the author try to write “black” speech for the slaves? Isn’t that insulting? What about the mixed-race slaves? What role is expected of them?) If you had been able to come for a visit a bit earlier in the new year, you could sit in. My students would probably love that!

  3. Brother Yank says:

    Mother, I’m pretty sure UTC has been on every recommended reading list imaginable for some time, but required high school reading is going to be a hard sell. Compassion and understanding for slaves may not sit well with a small percentage of Southern parents, and liberal-though unapologetically realistic-use of the term “nigger” is not going to sit well with the white guilt people of the North. The irony is that it delivers on the bit of harsh reality both types may need more of.

    I wish we had been assigned the book in school, but the closest we ever got was a short, edited summary of the river scene. I’m pretty sure it was primarily used as a grammar lesson.

    • Erin says:

      I enjoyed the read, though both my students and I found ourselves gagging at all the “You know those slaves and their bright colors!” romanticizing and infantilizing of African-Americans.

      I wonder sometimes, Adam, if we shouldn’t do a reading group together. We read something you like, and then something I like, and then back to your choice. I’d bet we’d have some good conversations. Otherwise it’s going to be several more months before I see anything of you! If you can get major winter weather out of the way and I can wrap up my semester, I’m hoping to be up to enjoy some Iowa thunderstorms and your company in early summer.

      Much love to you and Shannon!

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