Number of pages: 192
My Jim is inspired by the character Jim in Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Although it is inspired by Jim, the novel tells the story of Sadie, Jim's wife. The story is told in the first person using colloquial dialog. Sadie's granddaughter is about to set off on her grown up life away from her grandmother and Sadie has finally decided to tell her story. Sadie and her granddaughter make a memory quilt while Sadie tells the young woman about the people she loved and incorporates objects that remind her of them into the quilt.
Sadie's story begins as a slave on a tobacco plantation in Missouri and continues beyond emancipation to her life as a freed slave. The novel gives the reader an appreciation of what it was like to be a slave. It makes the reader feel Sadie's emotional desolation as she experiences atrocities that were common place at the time.
While Rawles definitely doesn't sugarcoat anything, the novel is not as graphic or raw as other books based on slave narratives. Sadie is a compelling character, but most of the secondary characters are not portrayed as detailed as Sadie. I believe that the reader is held back from knowing these characters because Sadie holds herself back from loving them too much in order to avoid heartbreak when they are taken from her. Since Sadie is telling the story to her granddaughter, who never experienced slavery, the story is especially suited to young adults. It is a story of one generation explaining to another the strength of their ancestors. A strength that they share to help hold them up in current times. To quote the novel:
All them watching over you. Folks you aint even know wishing you well praying right now for your soul. If you let the spirits near you they guide you along. All them Africans. They spirits never settle till the last of they children come home...You take that quilt wherever you go. When you old and wore you think on me and all the others love you. You close your eyes and feel our love coming up behind you. Thats all you got in this world.
Ms. Rawles won an Alex Award in 2006 for My Jim. The author wrote two other novels - Love Like Gumbo which won the American Book Award and Crawfish Dreams.
Review submitted by Cora Rosenshaft