“A life without books, is not a life at all …”
A couple of days ago, I finished reading “The Kitchen House.” I did not read the sequence in order. But I started with “Glory Over Everything” which is part two.
This first novel, “The Kitchen House” tells the story of the families, both black and white, slave and free, that eventually begat, Jaime Pyke, nee James Burton. This books tells the history of the slave quarters which were part of the larger plantation site. Reading out of order, defeated the purpose of reading.
The notions of person hood, whether, black or white, slave or free, is fraught with complications. When you mix a white human beings, into a black familial groups is problematic.
We read the evolution of that family unit, a white woman, introduced to life among slaves at this Virginia plantation, and what happens to them, as the story unfolds. A slave, in the vernacular, is there to serve a household. And the kitchen house, is where the slaves live while serving the Big House.
The white men, use and abuse their servant slaves, with impunity. The black women suffer the indignity of rape, however, we never see the word “rape” used in the book, but that is exactly what is happening. The women serve, as sexual objects, all the while serving the same white folk, in the Big House.
Whether the baby is viable and lives is not a concern of their white overlords.
At first we find a white woman introduced to a black family, later in the book, it is the white men who are having affairs with black women, all along being married to upper class white women.
Jaime Pyke, is a child who results from the union of a white man and a black slave. In the second book, Glory Over Everything, Jaime has run away from home, because he carries a secret, a secret of patricide.
There are taboos in this society. White women involved with black men, White men involved with black women, and the progeny produced. Children born of mixed race parents is problematic for their survival in society. Mixed race children bear the stigma of that parentage and could cost them their livelihoods and their lives.
The whole intermingling of the races, in both books is a very rough story line, as the author admits at the end of the book. She did not intend to tell that dark side of the story, but as it fleshed out, it became apparent that she would have to tell the more unsavory stories to complete the write process.
At one point, the white woman, living inside the black experience, meets a white man, who marries her and elevates her out of slavery, into being fully white and privileged, the dynamic of personal relations is turned on its head, when the tables are turned and the black – white woman, has to learn that she is now better by marriage than the woman she was a short while ago. And the slaves she lived with and loved, are no longer family, but merely servants, who have a lower status in the grand scheme of things, and this is an honest torment.
White men, in this story, have no scruples when it comes to sexual exploitation of children and women, and their are no repercussions for their choices.
Until that fateful night when Jaime Pyke, takes matters into his own hands.
Which leads directly into the second book, “Glory Over Everything.”
Filed under: New Beginnings Tagged: All About Me, Books, Glory Over Everything, Kathleen Grissom, Montreal, Slavery, The Human Story, The Kitchen House