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In the Land of Cotton: 05/23/10

cover art

I am embarrassed by the length of time between reading (and loving) In the Land of Cotton by Martha A. Taylor and reviewing it. I keep a list of books I need to review but some how this book and a half dozen others didn't make it onto that list.

I read In the Land of Cotton just after reading her novel Outside the Lavender Closet. I commented in my review that her novel reads like a memoir. Here, though, is a memoir and it reads like a novel.

Taylor describes her childhood from the point she and her family moved to a new home in Tennessee. The family hires Lucy, an African American woman to clean the house and watch the children. Martha curious about Lucy's life follows her home one day and meets the rest of Lucy's family on a farm. It's been their land since the end of the Civil War and the only remnant of a the plantation that has since become the suburban neighborhood that Martha now lives in.

I read the book as a novel. It's written in that style. The author calls it a "docu-drama." Except for a map of Lucy's farm, there isn't much in the way of documentation. The book may very well be a very personal memoir. Whether it's completely fact, completely fiction or somewhere in the middle, doesn't bother me. It's a compelling read. There are a few editing oddities near the end and the book as a whole would benefit from another round of editing. That being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

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