I think this is a brilliant book for a couple of reasons. To start, it tackles a subject so emotionally charged that it is very difficult not to let the drama overwhelm everything. Slavery, like the holocaust, is a difficult thing to write about without falling into clich├ęs about the nature of evil. The heart shouts loudly. What Whitehead manages to do is to escape history to some extent, and presents slavery as a state of mind that relates to race relations today. And he does it by making it so obviously not a real history. I read it in much the same way I read Middle Passage, by Charles Johnson; the truth being not in the historical accuracy but in tone and character.

And speaking of tone, I found myself often thinking how much this book was like Zone One in evoking a tone of constant menace. I think between the two books Whitehead has put his finger on the mental state of being black in America; that even when things seem good there is always, somewhere in the back of your mind, the feeling that the zombies or the lynch mobs could come any day.

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