So I liked this book a lot. Just getting that out of the way. Also, I haven’t seen the movie. Just getting THAT out of the way.
So what could I possibly add to the conversation about this book and subsequently some sense of the movie? Probably not much.
But here’s what I was thinking as I read it. This book is mostly not narrative. I mean this in the sense that there’s a lot of information about the lives of the women and men (well, man) who worked in Hampton at this time but there’s not a lot of story. Which is ok! Because, it probably allowed the book to be easily trimmed down to a cohesive movie narrative by slicing up the story into chunks that make sense. I can’t imagine the movie has the anthology feel that the book does, that these people occupied the same spaces and time, but didn’t always cross paths. I imagine it had to shaped into a story.
Here’s some stray thoughts: I was vacuuming when the discussion about Barbara Johns came up in the book. Recall that she is the student who sued her school system in southern Virginia and led to the big case of Brown v Board of Education. I was teared up when they were talking about how one of the events that led to her moving forward was a bus crash that was completely unnecessary.
I think book is really good at not letting whiteness off the hook. The coldness and inhumanity displayed by white America, and still displayed, talked about in such stark terms, without describing violence or abjectness, just everyday cruelty is so much harder to take.