Part II: the stories of south carolina run like rivers
This section of poems highlights that precarious stage of childhood that hovers between innocence and growing up. Woodson and her siblings are still very young, but they’re having to deal with some very adult realities. The main adult figures in this section are the grandmother, grandfather and mother. I think any Southern black family can tell you the powerful role that grandparents play and today that role seems to be taking on even more power. Some of that may be for the wrong reasons, but it’s hard to deny their importance.
One of the things that struck me the most about this importance is when the Woodson siblings refer to their grandfather as Daddy. He has essentially stepped in to fill in the role of Father for these children and that seemed so powerful to me. It speaks to why families should be close knit because it takes so many to give children a decent, normal childhood. Woodson’s grandparents did an excellent job of providing what seemed to be normalcy for their grandchildren even as their Mother sought out a new life in New York.
This section of poetry also educated me some on the Civil Rights Movement. Something I never really expected. I never once thought about how blacks in the South, part of the Movement or not, were forced to travel at night to avoid being accused of being part of the Movement. It’s a thought that never crossed my mind. The Civil Rights Movement had ripples across every level of normal life. In this respect, these poems showed just how far we have come in terms of race relations and just how little we’ve come at the same time. Black people are still being followed around in stores.
On a lighter note, I really felt for the poor brother and his allergies. It was one of the reasons I eventually left the South. Every word she used to describe his condition took me back to pollen filled days and stuffy noses compounded by migraines. I just wanted to reach through the poetry and time and give him a hug.