Kris McCracken's Reviews > Middle Passage

Middle Passage by Charles R. Johnson
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's review
Jan 05, 2012

really liked it
Read from January 05 to 12, 2012

Tracking the final voyage of an illegal American slave ship in 1830, the novel presents a personal and historical perspective of the illegal slave trade in the United States through the personage of Rutherford Calhoun, a freed slave who unknowingly boards a slave ship bound for Africa in order to escape a forced marriage.

I don’t want to say too much about the story (which is a fair dinkum ripping yarn), other than it is a fine blend of melodrama, mysticism and historical realism. Any book that can mix buggery on the high seas, a dangerous love triangle, an exploration of black identity in America and a treatise on the work of G.W.F. Hegel is offering something different.

Middle Passage is at the same time an easy and challenging read. The central story is gripping, but the narrative itself is intellectually demanding and purposefully complex. Johnson doesn’t present a black and white exposition on the slave trade, but one very much that inhabits the greys. There is not so much “good guys” and “bad guys” as “guys”. Conflict does not easily cleave between races, but transcends it.

This book might not be for everybody, but it could be for you! I heartily recommend it to all comers.

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