Crow (Wright)

I appreciate this historical basis for this novel (the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 in Wilmington, North Carolina). There’s a need for books that focus on historical parts of the African-American story aside from the Civil War, slavery, and Civil RIghts. (I know there are, but writers seem to gravitate to those eras as well as whatever counts for modern times.) This novel, however, does not completely rise to the challenge. The plot is episodic; each section could come with its own headline. “This is the scene when Moses (subtle name, huh?) loses his innocence” or “This is the scene where Moses learns that not all white people are bad.” The novel picks up momentum by the end, but it’s a challenge to care about what are largely stock characters. The Grandmother who believes in the old ways. The father who speaks in speeches that seem to be straight out of a manifesto. Is the emotional distance the fault of Wright the writer? Or is it her effort to stay as close as she could to the characters and facts of the actual riot? In her Historical Note, she writes,  “[w]here possible, I quoted word for word from speeches and documents” (294). I appreciate the idea behind that and emphasize the need for more stories, this one does not have enough craft or spark to it to make me want to recommend it for students.

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