I’m sitting in Grand Rapids Community College this morning. I am here with my best friend and cousin, Anna, waiting for her younger brother to take a CLEP test. I have the day off, so I slept over last night and am enjoying extra time with my cousins.
As the title indicates, this is a book review post. A couple of weeks ago a read a book that I found very interesting and eye-opening. The book that I read was All Things New, by Lynn Austin.
The book is set in the late 1800s right after the civil war. The three primary charters are: Eugenia, a confederate mother who lost her husband; Josephine, her young adult daughter who has interesting ideas; and Lizzy, their former slave who is trying to figure out how to live life as a free women. The book includes chapters from each women’s perspective and weaves them all together in a seamless way.
As we know from history, there was a lot of bitterness and prejudice after the civil war ended. The South highly resented the Yankees for coming in and taking over. They were also upset at Washington and had decided the government was not trustworthy. In the book, many of the confederate veterans take matters into their own hands and try to frighten the former slaves into submission. The veterans deal with adjusting to civilian life and accepting that they won’t be able to run their plantations just as their fathers before.
One of the characters in the book is a Yankee solider who was sent to help rebuild the South. After the war ended, no one knew exactly how to proceed and the slaves were afraid to cross the white men. He builds a school and tries to help the plantation owners form crop sharing agreements with the former slaves. He has an uphill battle the whole way as he tries to help the South to accept the changes and find a new way of life.
From the slaves’ perspective, the situation seemed almost just the same as when they had been slaves. They still lived in fear of what the white men might do to them. Even though many of them left the plantations that they worked at, they didn’t have any place to go and were constantly under threat from the white men. They hardly dared to even send their children to the black school that the Yankees set up.
After the war, the South was a troubled place and everything was in an upheaval. The Southern way of life and thinking had been dashed against the rocks and they had to try and put the pieces back together to form a new way of life.
This book really opened my eyes to the South’s perspective of the civil war. They felt angry at their government for attacking them and violating what they believed were their state rights. I learned about some of the teachings that went on in the South that heavily influenced their way of thinking. Straight from the cradle, children were taught that God created the black population to work, that slaves should be handled firmly, and should be put in their place. It isn’t so hard for me to understand how they could believe that slavery was okay when I think about how they were taught and the fact that everyone else was doing the same thing. The Southern way of life was completely dependent on their crops and the fact that they didn’t have to pay workers. In no way do I feel that slavery was right. I think that slavery was not in keeping with the Bible’s teaching and that it was very wrong. However, this book helped me to understand the civil war a little better by showing the Southern perspective.
Here are a few things that I took away from this book:
- How a person is taught has a huge impact on their way of thinking. Lies have so much power. If a person believes them for long enough, they can become so much like the truth.
- Bitterness is never a good idea. Yes, one may feel like they were dealt an unfair hand, and it may actually be true. Dwelling on that fact will only hurt you more. The best option is to accept the situation and move on. Try to find the positives and don’t dwell on the past. That is a lot easier said that done.
- Trying to understand another person’s perspective can go along way when you are trying to get along and solve a problem.
I really enjoyed this book and the truths that it brought to light. I would encourage anyone to read this book. It was wonderfully written and packed with insight. Definitely a book to remember!