Book Review: The Invention of Wings

“There was a time in Africa the people could fly. Mauma told me this when I was 10 years old.”

The story starts with Hetty sharing her mom’s beliefs. Her ‘mauma’ then pats her shoulder blades making her want to have faith in her belief. “This all what left of your wings. They nothing but these flat bones now, but one day you gon get ’em back.”

Hetty’s mauma, Charlotte, believes they will fly again. Figuratively, of course.
In the next chapter, little Hetty is given as a ‘gift’ to Sarah Grimke, who is celebrating her 11th birthday.

Sarah resists and tries to return her gift. But that is not how it is meant to be. “Owning people was as natural as breathing” after all.

The story is not entirely fictional. Sarah Grimke was real. Hetty was real. Slavery was real.
The Invention of Wings‘ by Sue Monk Kidd picks facts from history and adds few fictional details to tell us the story of Sarah & Angeline Grimke, abolitionists and women’s rights pioneers.

 

The narrative is consuming. To think of existing in 1800s in Charleston, where the story is set, made me tremble. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd picks facts from history and adds few fictional details to tell us the story of Sarah & Angeline Grimke, abolitionists and women’s rights pioneers. It’s the story of how the sisters find voices to talk about the pain of being silenced.

“She said it again, “I’m tired.”
She wanted me to tell her it was all right, to get her spirit and go on, but I couldn’t say it. I told her, “Course you’re tired. You worked hard your whole life. That’s all you did was work.”
“Don’t you remember me for that. Don’t you remember I’m a slave and work hard. When you think of me, you say, she never belong to those people. She never belong to nobody but herself.”
She closed her eyes. “You remember that.”
“I will, mauma.”

The sisters were arguably “the most famous and infamous women in America in 1830s”. But had you heard the names before? I was ignorant. So was Sue Monk Kidd, the author, until she visited the Brooklyn Museum. “My ignorance of them felt like both a personal failing and a confirmation of Chicago’s view that women’s achievements had been repeatedly erased through history,” she writes.

That, however, is not the reason why I couldn’t put down this book and will recommend it to many. It’s the way Sue has dealt with delicate relationships such as the one between Sarah & Hetty. It’s the use of language and drama. It’s the way how you as a reader understand what makes one a rebellion and a leader.

It talks about feminism. It talks about slavery. It talks about all things black and white. But what I like the most is the way it describes complex relationships: between Sarah & Hetty; Sarah & Israel Morris; Hetty & Goodis; Angelina & Theodore… Love has different meanings and forms between these characters.

The book made me travel back in time. It captivated my mind for last couple of days. I know it will be consumed for many more…

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