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Natchez Burning
Rich in Southern atmosphere and electrifying plot turns.
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Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

Created: 09/29/15

Replies: 27

Posted Sep. 29, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Lea Ann

Join Date: 04/20/11

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Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

I must admit that this question is aimed squarely at myself. I'm a "northern girl" who lived in New Orleans from 1963 until 1973. The murders, the finding of the bodies, the knowledge of the killers was front and center when my family and I lived there and it disturbed me no end. I spoke with my pastor about it when it was disclosed that one of the killers was a Baptist pastor. My pastor assured me that we are each as individuals responsible for our actions and the consequences of them. All of that being said, I had to read this book in fits and starts as I found it most disturbing. And, yet, it's so well written, such a compelling story, that each time I put it down i wanted to pick it up again, and did so each time. Mr. Iles has put his readers right into the middle of a difficult time for the South and that he can make those readers feel a part of the scene is a testament to his skill.


Posted Sep. 30, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
joyces

Join Date: 06/16/11

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RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

Like Lea Ann I was raised in the North but have lived in the south for the last twenty years. Growing to adulthood in the '60s I was disgusted and shocked by what was going on in the South at that time but I think this book helped me to understand a little of how it could happen and why and how dangerous it was to protest too loudly about the awful things that were being done. I also had to put the book down a few times because it was a little hard to swallow but Mr. Iles had me hooked and I would be right back at it pretty quickly.


Posted Sep. 30, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
johnw

Join Date: 03/11/12

Posts: 33

RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

A person's past experiences always colors the individual's perspective. While the agrarian nature of the south led to use of slavery and hideous actions by whites, similar atrocities have occurred throughout history and today in the US and around the world. If someone grew up in the south during this period they probably could replay similar situations that they recall from their past while reading the book. Growing up in the north - I found myself thinking about how these actions occurred with European's settling the US and their treatment of native Americans, the internment of the Japanese during world war 2, the treatment of migrants to our country today, etc. That said, it is a testimony to the writing of the author and his ability to evoke strong emotions.


Posted Oct. 01, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
irisf

Join Date: 01/16/12

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RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

Reading the responses of others makes me realize that personal experience does influence my reaction to this book. I remember well the civil rights movement and as a young adult I found the whole ordeal horrific. I found segregation and all it represented to be beyond belief. Having been raised in the Midwest I couldn't quite believe how African Americans had been treated in the south. It became even more shocking to me when a co-worker who had recently moved north from Virginia asked me for recommendations for restaurants that would not serve blacks for her parents who were visiting for the first time. I told her there weren't any. That was in 1965 and that request shocked me and has stayed with me all these years.

Needless to say, I was a young adult and lived through not only the civil rights movement as well as the assassinations of President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. These events were the end of innocence for our generation.


Posted Oct. 01, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
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viviant

Join Date: 10/26/11

Posts: 23

RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

As a child of the 60s, born and raised in the pseudo-South (West Virginia), a female, and a Black American, I know that my past colored the way I read this book. There were scenes that were hard to read, simply because they reflected my cultural past rather than personal experience.

I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Iles at a book signing two years ago and asked him if the scenes I found difficult to read where as difficult for him to write and read. He stated it was difficult for him but probably for different reasons. I don't think it is possible to witness hatred put into action by any group of people against another without viewing through the lens of our own experiences.


aka The Book Diva
Posted Oct. 01, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
MarieA

Join Date: 10/12/11

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RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

One's experiential background affects the way one reads any novel. Also affecting one's perception of the author's presentation of a topic is the number of books of a similar topic the reader has read. Although I have never lived in the Deep South, I have lived in areas where segregation and bias have occurred. No matter how many books or movies one reads or sees, the topics Iles presents continue to be heart wrenching and hard to digest for the reader. Iles does well in presenting and reminding us of a sad part of our history.


Posted Oct. 02, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
laurap

Join Date: 06/19/12

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RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

I grew up in northeastern Tennessee and was in high school and college during the 60s. I saw and heard enough to know that Iles' story is all too real, and was fortunate to have been raised with a value system that left me distressed and horrified by what was happening. All of us perceive through a mental framework colored by our particular experience, and my background certainly affected how I read this story. I understand Stanley Nelson, a reporter who covered the murders on which this story is loosely based, has a non-faction book on the murders coming soon, and I look forward to reading that, as well as the rest of this trilogy, to add to my cache of knowledge on civil rights and the South.


Posted Oct. 06, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
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donnac

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RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

That is the beauty of reading! And of these discussions. We each bring our own experience and even recent event to a book and it gives each of us a unique perspective. We see it all through the prism of our personal histories.

I did not grow up in the South -- well, Chicago's south side, if that counts -- but I worked at a Chicago Boys' Club camp in the '60s and many of the other counselors were Black and from the South (real south, Tennessee, Mississippi, etc.). I learned a lot from them as we became friends working together, partying and living together. And I worried about them when they went back to their homes in the fall. The stories they told about their lives and the lives of their parents were chilling and reading this book made me think of them (we lost touch over time) and wonder how they are doing today.


Posted Oct. 07, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Suzanne

Join Date: 04/21/11

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RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

Not only do personal experiences affect the understanding while reading of this book, but also do the basic beliefs the reader enters with; which in turn may be influenced by experience. The reader's mindset at the time of reading is what the important element is in the answer to this question. At least that's how I figure it to be!


Posted Oct. 07, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
BamaCarol

Join Date: 04/16/12

Posts: 37

RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

I believe they do color the way one reads any book. I was 6 when our family moved to Mississippi in 1963 and of course too young to really know what was going on. I look back on this and realize that it must have been frightening for my young parents to move from Tennessee to Mississippi and take me there in the middle of such unrest even though they did not believe in such segregation. I was truly horrified reading this book and the sequel at the things that were done to people during that time period. I was raised differently from this and could not imagine such atrocities.


Posted Oct. 07, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Silly Lotus

Join Date: 10/07/15

Posts: 11

RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

I don't think that it really matters what area of the country you are from to recognize the segregation and racial hatred that existed, i think that it was all over the country, just more open in the South. I'm from the mid west. It was there. I lived in VA, it was definitely there. I think what matters is the time of which we speak. As i said previously, some things you just don't do--you don't kill people. Of course it is horrifying. Fifty years later, as a country maybe we need to be reminded, as this book does, just how senseless and inhuman the actions were.


Posted Oct. 07, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
andreab

Join Date: 07/29/14

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RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

I am deeply affected by this book and I have not had experiences like those in the book. I think there are several possible reactions for those for whom these stories are sadly common:
1. Can't keep reading because it hits too close to home.
2. Read and criticize because the author doesn't go far enough to show the true experience of those who lived in the South during that time or who are still dealing with some of these issues.
3. Read with numbness because these experiences are all too common.
I do not think this book is written for those who have gone through these types of events. I think it is for those of us who haven't so we can get a glimpse of what it was like. I'd like to think we've learned for the mistakes of those who went before us but since these things keep happening, we obviously haven't...


Posted Oct. 07, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Lea Ann

Join Date: 04/20/11

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RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

What interesting comments from each of you. Thank you for sharing them. This book provided so much food for thought, and, as andreab says, it doesn't matter if one's background included experiences such as those in the book or not. The book was a "learning experience" as well as "entertainment" for each of us, each in her/his own way and I appreciate the comments made by each of you. that's the joy of the discussions on a variety of books of this site. Well worth participating and reading what others have to say. Thank you.


Posted Oct. 08, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
mariannes

Join Date: 12/17/12

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WRE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

I agree that a person's viewpoint and experiences always affect how one interprets a book. I was in junior/senior high and college while these events were occurring. Off subject, but I got to see Martin Luther King speak at Kansas State University in 1967-68! My mother grew up in Oklahoma, which is a borderline southern state, so some of those racist attitudes were still around in some places--not everybody. This affected my reading of the book because I knew the people described were realistic. I've never understood the hatred, though.


Posted Oct. 09, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
alycet

Join Date: 04/23/12

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RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

Being born in the 30's colored the way I read this book. It bought up headlines and memories which I had put away in a dark corner of my mind and did not want to recall. That made the beginning very hard to read. I wasn't sure that I wanted to continue. It really sickened me but wasn't that exactly what Greg Iles wanted to do? I keep wondering what young people thought who did not live through the worse times.


Posted Oct. 13, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianem

Join Date: 10/25/12

Posts: 65

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RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

Unfortunately I have never experienced anything like what was described in the book but have read about it.. there is racism up north as well


Posted Oct. 14, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
juliaa

Join Date: 12/03/11

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RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

Even though I haven't quite finished the book yet, I have to say that my personal experiences are coloring the way I read and respond to the book. I was in high school and college in the 60s when these events were occurring. I grew up in the North, where we have our own forms of racism even to this day, so I didn't experience the events like those of the novel personally, but I remember well reading about the lynchings and other killings of both Blacks and the white civil rights workers who went down South, and seeing the reports on television news. Of course, I, like everyone in the country, was deeply affected by the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and MLK. The effects of the riots in Newark, NJ in the summer of 1968 were still evident the first time I went to Newark in 1973. All of these things weighed on my mind as I read the book. Having it brought back to me that some of the crimes haven't ever been solved; others have been "solved," but wondering if the solutions are the truth stirred a lot of emotions and memories for me. In many ways, that fact makes this a better book in my opinion, and one that I will recommend to others in my generation.


Posted Oct. 14, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
nanl

Join Date: 09/28/15

Posts: 23

RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

Reading these comments I almost have to conclude that one's background does not play a significant role; everyone seems to recoil with the same disgust at the events described here. Certainly African Americans living through those times in the South have a different narrative than those living in the North or those first experiencing awareness of the extent of racial inequality during the Civil Rights movement, but Iles has presented such a graphic description of the extreme cruelty and degradation that no reader can be unmoved or not reflect on what this history has done to the country,


Posted Oct. 14, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
nancyh

Join Date: 06/25/13

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RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

I grew up in Minnesota and did not realize that the civil war was still going on. I remember how surprised I was when the civil rights improvement started and we heard about it in my innocent world. I was in my early twenties.


Posted Oct. 15, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dorothyl

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RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

Yes, I think one's personal experiences color the way you relate to a book. I lived in New York City as a child and when I was ten, I went down South for the first time in the 1950's.. I remember being shocked by segregated restaurants and restrooms and "for colored" signs up. It affected my reading of this book.


Posted Oct. 19, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
barb23703

Join Date: 10/04/15

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RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

It certainly has colored the way I have read this book, even though I would like to believe I read most books in order to add the story to my experience, so that I can enjoy the development of the characters from the writer's perspective. With this book in particular, I find the comments surprising in that it is assumed by most people that the issues of this book is a "Southern problem." I grew up in Central Indiana in the 1960's and 1970's. The Klan was not only existing in the area, but was active and visible. To this day, there is only little, backward town that has a local bar that is know as the Klan Dive. There are fewer member, and most of the members are old, irrelevant rednecks that are the butt of jokes and pitty statements. This book feels very real to me.


Posted Oct. 21, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Peggy H

Join Date: 06/13/11

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RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

Yes, I think it does affect the way I read the book. Interesting, though I lived my childhood in the North and then in DC, I can still look back on events and see how they affected my family.


Pegh
Posted Oct. 28, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
jerrypiggy

Join Date: 10/28/15

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RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

I was born in the 40's and grew up in South Georgia in the 50's so I felt right at home reading Greg Iles's Natchez Burning and the Bone Tree. Now understand me, I did NOT see that kind of horror visited on folks that I knew but I had no problem believing that it did happen. Maybe I was naive, the first black kid I went to school with was in line signing uo for classes in college. Everything in High School and before was all segregated. It wasn't something I chose, it's just the way it was and I knew nothing else until college. But Mr. Iles's story and his characters stories were more than believable. The fact that black girls and white men were having sex together was known for years and years. What was a TOTAL surprise to me was all the discussion of white women having sex with black boys. If that ever happened in South Georgia, I never heard about it but I loved the whole concept and where it led the characters. Great books and maybe the best two books I ever read. Can't wait until the third one comes out. Write faster Greg!!


Posted Nov. 12, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
gdlenehan

Join Date: 06/22/11

Posts: 19

RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

Personal experiences definitely color my reading and reaction to this book and judging from all of the interesting and varied comments, this has been true for everyone who made it through all 800 pages!
I am a Southerner and have lived through all of this history. This book is as significant to me as The Help, which many of us related to a few years ago.


Ladyonthelake
Posted Dec. 15, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
CAC

Join Date: 12/15/15

Posts: 19

RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

Absolutely, being from upper middle class - outside of NYC - my parents totally sheltered me from these events. I feel badly that I was so unaware.


Posted Dec. 18, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianem

Join Date: 10/25/12

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RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

Having lived in the north all my life I haven't experienced most of the events described here but it was such an interesting book I wanted to read more.I was too young to remember much but we can all learn from this book


Posted Dec. 20, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
jerrypiggy

Join Date: 10/28/15

Posts: 5

RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

I don't believe one's personal experience has any effect. I grew up in the South (GA) at a time some ten years earlier and although I never heard of some of those things happening in my town, I would have no trouble accepting that they did, if it were proven to me. Growing up when I did, the sex happenings COULD have happened, but the violence DID happen on a regular basis. Greg Iles was speaking about Mississippi in the early 60's. I grew up in GA in the late 50's so the happenings were similar. You simply MUST read THE BONE TREE cause the story from Natchez Burning continues. It is another 800 pages but could be, I did say COULD, the best story I ever read. Keep my name and let me know what you think. I am trying to get the customers of my favorite book store to gather together those who have read both of the first two books, to playfully cast the movie. I think it would be a "hoot". Keep reading and let me hear from you


Posted Dec. 27, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
rebeccar

Join Date: 03/13/12

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RE: Does one's personal experiences color the way one reads this book?

I don't think that personal experiences affect a person's reading of this book. Some people may not be as caring as others; there are - sadly- those people who do not care as much if they are not personally affected. However, the ongoing wars around the world and the nightly news should indicate to anyone of any age and any location that this book is relevant. It is not just history.


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