Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Reading Journal Entry: Prince Edward
This book is the reminiscence of the now adult Ben Rome who is recalling the events of the summer of 1959 in Prince Edward county, Virginia. The segregationist whites in power were scrambling to set up a system of private education in response to the Brown v. Board of Education decision. As a 10-year-old, he is bewildered by these machinations, but also fascinated by the conflicting emotions that are evident in the adults around him. His sister Lainie is depressed about giving up college for marriage and an unwanted pregnancy. His parents are constantly at odds, and his twenty-something brother seems to be headed for serious trouble. As Ben and his black playmate gather eggs each day on his father's chicken farm, he worries about what will happen to Burghardt when the "separate but equal" schools are closed. In trying to understand what is going on, Ben eavesdrops and snoops, and learns more than he bargained for. Hovering over everyone like a malevolent spider is his powerful grandfather who takes perverse pleasure in humiliating Ben and anyone who can't stand up to him. This escalates beyond mere "teasing," and when it does, there is a violent consequence.
I was just about a year younger than Lainie in 1959, and I vaguely recall my classmates disputing the "rightness" of integration, but it was a few more years before it came to Nacogdoches. When it did, I had already moved away, and the whites must have become resigned to it by then, because I don't recall hearing about any violence--which is surprising considering how racist we all were back then.
My muse came through for me again. I had painted the pages of this spread with Americana brand "Graphite" acrylic to try and match the background of the eggs photo. I wrote the text with a white Gelly Roll pen since I knew it would show up well on the dark paint, although I used a white Prismacolor pencil for the title and author. Only after the fact, did I realize how perfectly it went with the theme of the book...looks just like writing on a blackboard.