Drapetomania By: John R. Gordon | Book Review w/ Author Q&A

Drapetomania; or The Narrative of Cyrus Tyler & Abednego Tyler
By: John R. Gordon
Genre: History, LGBT, M/M, Slavery, Fiction, Literature
Rating: 5 stars
Publisher: Team Angelica
Release Date: May 17, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon| B&N

Synopsis: When house-servant Abednego is sold away south, his heartbroken field-hand lover Cyrus snaps and flees the estate on which he has lived his entire life. Leaving everything he knows behind him, evading dogs and patrollers as he heads north, in the midst of a dismal swamp Cyrus receives the revelation that Abednego is his true North Star, and, impossible though it seems, he determines to find and rescue his lost lover from slavery.

Ten years in the writing, Drapetomania, Or The Narrative of Cyrus Tyler & Abednego Tyler, lovers, is an epic tale of black freedom, uprising, and a radical representation of romantic love between black men in slavery times.

A riveting, masterful work. Set against the brutalizing, material captivity meant to break the soul, that came to define the chattel enslavement of Africans in the American south, Drapetomania tells the compelling story of two men whose love for each other reimagines the erotic contours of what was possible under the whip and scrutiny of catastrophic bondage. Here is a story of love so powerful, so achingly present, it dares to consider not just the past but the future, as vital to freedom; and in doing so, defies any notion of the black enslaved body as an ugly, unpalatable thing, unworthy of the sweetness of love. Gordon’s novel enters the company of such classic works as Edward P. Jones’s The Known World, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Barry Unsworth’s Sacred Hunger. We will be reading and talking about this extraordinary novel for years to come.

 

Book Review:

Reading this book was such an experience for me. Each chapter, character action, the accuracy in the details, the pacing; all of it reads like an epic.  I went through several stages of what felt like a symbolic, yet temporal, metamorphosis, both emotionally and consciously, by the lives illustrated by some of the enslaved characters in this book. So, I will try to keep my notes and thoughts on the story linear with this post.

Drapetomania is broken up into three books in this novel and told in a third person perspective that alternates between the lives and experiences of the two main characters, Cyrus and Abednego. Set in the late 19th century, where bristling talk and whispered rumors of a war between the Southern plantations faction of the United States, against the industrializing, forward-thinking North. However, unaware of the truth behind the rumors of a Civil War on the horizon, Cyrus, and Abednego, two enslaved men who live and work on the same plantation, have fallen in love.

I already knew a lot about the horrible treatment, abuse and dehumanizing conditions that enslaved Africans & African-Americans lived in, but to be placed in the middle it while reading this book took a whole other form and meaning.

During my Q&A with John, (the full interview is below) I asked about certain story themes and relative messages that he placed in the narrative. And one of those was the appalling suffering of enslaved African women, which I found one of the toughest aspects of this book I found to get through. Which is why I felt the practically spiritual connection and love between Cyrus and Abednego truly represented not only the light of this book but also the feeling of hope that pulled me through the story.

In book one, we follow Cyrus, a field-hand, as he runs away from the Tyler estate several months after Abednego has been sold away. He sets out for freedom and follows the North Star while being hunted until he realizes that he is running for a sense of freedom that he has only ever felt when with his lover, Abednego. Once Cyrus understands what he is truly missing, his character is driven by that singular desire of feeling whole once more—with Bed.

The journey we watch Cyrus go on to try to track down his lover’s potential whereabouts is anything but easy, clear or hopeful, but his compulsive need to try really resonated with me. I know it will with other readers as well.

And while I felt I was kind of on pins and needles reading this book with the tension engulfing Cyrus’ situation, I enjoyed the emotional connection I gain toward his character’s personal growth from one daring escape—each more intense than the last—to the other of the many hold-your-breath peril moments he encountered.

Cyrus’ shift from relying solely on his physical abilities, to quick thinking and blending in with other enslaved individuals really brought his character to life. In book two, the perspective shifted to Abednego and I love, love, loved that I was able to see Abednego’s point of view first-hand as all the information we have up until this point was from Cyrus’ s point of view.

And while book two depicts his life after Tyler’s estate and several months before Cyrus’s escape, it brought a validation to their relationship, their love for each other and their story all at once. As at the heart of everything that unfolds in Drapetomania, it was a reminder that it is a love story of one heart beating within these two men.

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Book Spotlight & Interview Post For: Sanctuary

Sanctuary By. Zainab T. Khan book cover photo

Sanctuary
by Zainab T. Khan
Release Date: December 19th 2015 (Pre-order Now Available. )

Genre: Young Adult, Short Story

Synopsis:

Sanctuary (n.) the protection that is provided by a safe place.

“And Sanctuary was the right word to describe our small town with its mouth-watering Pakistani fruits, Spain’s bullfighting, Italian pizzas, French artists, Indian spices, Korean kimchi, and Turkish delights. Because to every single one of us – a Pakistani, Spanish, Indian, Korean, French, Italian, and Turkish – it was a sanctuary. Our own safe haven. Our home with its different cultural styles yet with a culture of its own.”

A Prelude to The Interview:

One of the main reasons I am so excited for Sanctuary’s release is the fact that it is built on such a multicultural foundation and, if you know anything about me, you should know how much I love studying, reading, experiencing and talking about all things multi-culture related. As a double plus, plus for this book promotion event, I had the opportunity to interview Zainab T. Khan, the author of this lovely novelette. My quick Q & A is just below, but be sure to check out Sanctuary when it’s released on December 19th and visit Zainab’s webpage.  ^___^

What’s was it that sparked your inspiration to write Sanctuary?

I’m a sociology student so it always strike me hard when I read about discrimination. It’s unfair. And I despise unfair things. So I tried to create a world (a town, basically) which had no discrimination of any kind, but mainly on ethnic grounds.

Were the stories in Sanctuary solo pieces that you put together, or were they always meant to be in a book?

They always meant to be in a continuous novel, despite its short length. It made more sense to have a multicultural town rather than writing solo stories.

What would you say was your favorite story from this book to write?
I loved writing about Italian wedding, Enrique and Giovanna’s. Also the masquerade ball.

Is there a character from Sanctuary, or any other book (that you’ve written or read) that you wish you could be friends with in real life? If so, why?
That’s a real difficult question. I’m not sure how to answer that. Just one person? Aw, man. Okay, it’s a tie, between Fern, from Making Faces by Amy Harmon, and Millie, from The Song of David by Amy Harmon. There is a long list of reasons behind my choice but I’m afraid if I start writing it down, the answer will turn into a lengthy essay.

What were some of the things you had to research before you began creating such a culturally infused town in Sanctuary?

Languages. Names. Their country’s specialties. And some of their traditions.

If different from the book, could you describe your ideal sanctuary?
Home. My ideal sanctuary would be home. It is my home. A sanctuary is described as a safe place. Home is one place where I feel nothing but at ease. So that’s my ideal Sanctuary. It’s all thanks to my parents and grandparents who turned house into a home, then home into a sanctuary.

Zainab T. Khan Author Photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Hello, you beautiful person.

The only thing you need to know about is my favourite book boyfriends (Yes, boyfriend(s), deal with it. We all have them.) Jesse de Silva, Maxon Schreave, and Flynn Rider (he’s a fictional character too) and of course Adrian Ivashkov. Oh, how I wish I could resist them. But, David ‘Tag’ Taggert has my heart. Sorry, you four gorgeous guys.

AUTHOR LINKS:

Website |Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

Thanks so much for the interview, Zainab! ❤  🙂

And thank you so much for reading. Until next time,

Gia.