|WHAT ANSWER? by Anna Dickinson
||[Feb. 7th, 2016|08:52 pm]
...and the stains drip between fingers...
This 1868 novel is sentimental, overwrought, and mediocre, but depicts an interracial romantic relationship and ringingly denounces racism. The novel primarily treats on northern racism in the United States Civil War period; even in the states which don't allow slavery, African-American people are mistreated and segregated. One telling incident is a black man who lost a leg fighting for the north but isn't even allowed to sit in a railway car with white people (taken directly from the author's life).
The story has the courage to end in tragedy, depicting brutal war and vile lynching.
There's the same flaw as UNCLE TOM'S CABIN and Dumas' GEORGES in the idealistic way many of the non-white characters in the book are treated. Racism isn't wrong because some black people are exceptional noble geniuses; it's wrong because all black people are human. But the idealistic characterisation also has a wish-fulfilment function (last time I heard, there are plenty of books with white exceptional noble geniuses as the protagonists), and the point these books are making is right and important and very necessary.
The writer led a grand life and contributed a lot to her society. She seems to have started as a child prodigy, publishing an anti-slavery essay in William Lloyd Garrison's newspaper The Liberator at age 13. She grew up to be an activist and lecturer, spoke before the American House of Representatives, performed as Hamlet on Broadway, won her freedom from an insane asylum, and may or may not have been a lesbian in her personal life.