Instaread Summary of Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
Four out of five stars
When it still existed before the American Civil War, southerners referred to slavery as “our peculiar institution.” This phrase had several meanings, but whatever was meant, it was an understatement. Being black was clear in most instances, but there were many instances of black female slaves being impregnated by their masters, either by coercion or straight rape. This led to many people of mixed race, with a complete spectrum of skin pigmentations and fractional black components. For these people, their racial classification was uncertain, but subject to a negative interpretation at any time.
The main character is James Burton, a mixed-race man that is one-quarter black, but light enough to pass as white. He was raised as white by his adoptive parents and the story involves his interactions with his world as he tries to avoid being classified as black and sold into slavery. Considered a white child for so long, James was sheltered and largely chose to ignore the plight of black people. When he learns that he can be considered one, his environment is dramatically altered.
This summary moves quickly in the explanation of the plot, but while the author does a good job in explaining the main themes of the book, the subject matter is far too complex to be developed in a short piece. Slavery in the United States was a very complex practice, even though it was based on a very simple social distinction, one race could be considered property. When the fundamental plot device is based on the people of mixed race, of which there were many, it rapidly gets horribly complicated.
The inability of the nation to resolve the issue of slavery led to an internal war where hundreds of thousands were killed and large areas of the land devastated. Much of that inability was due to the complexity of how slavery was practiced. The book is important in that it demonstrates to modern readers how racial classification is inexact, leading to ambiguity and danger to people that could fall on either side of the racial divide. This summary is dense and moves so fast that it is confusing, yet the main ideas are clear.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.