Restitution and Restorative Justice: Background information when reading The House Girl

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The House Girl

by Tara Conklin

The House Girl by Tara Conklin
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2013, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2013, 384 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Restitution and Restorative Justice

Print Review

Tara Conklin's novel The House Girl weaves two stories together: 17-year-old Josephine, a slave who flees a tobacco farm in West Virginia in 1852, and Lina, a lawyer seeking reparations for the descendants of African American slaves in 2004. While the idea of reparations is not new, it has gained more of a spotlight within the last decade.

To understand its concept, it is useful to understand the philosophy of Restorative Justice, which seeks to restore harm done to both the victim of a particular crime and the community from which the victim comes. Unlike Retributive Justice, which focuses specifically on punishment for the breaking of laws, it addresses the wider social network: the people who are affected by those broken laws, and the communities in which they live. According to the tenets of Restorative Justice, only by addressing the real and specific harm that has been done to actual individual people and their communities can healing begin to occur. Restitution, or reparation, is an important tool in the Restorative Justice process. It is a sort of tangible righting of a wrong – an understanding on the part of the perpetrator of benefits gained and imbalance created (or perpetuated), and a concrete solution to begin to fix that.

UN World Conference Against RacismRestorative Justice in the context of slavery means re-evaluating what was legal at one time through the lens of modern day humanity, and restitution in this context means African Americans being compensated for the nearly two and a half centuries of the practice of slavery in the United States. Although it has been an idea that has been slow to adopt, it has gained momentum within the last decade, especially in terms of corporate restitution. According to a 2001 New York Times article, the momentum has occurred on a few different fronts, including a California law which requires insurance companies to research their histories and report if they had ever sold slave owners policies that insured them against the loss of their slaves, as well as the issue of restitution being front and center at the UN World Conference Against Racism in August 2001 (but which was eclipsed almost entirely in the news because 9/11 happened on its heels.)

Of course, restitution is not only about admitting to slavery connections or focusing time and energy on the topic; it is also about reparations in the form of payment. This is not a new concept, nor is it limited to African Americans and slavery. The United States has paid reparations to Japanese-Americans for their imprisonment during World War II, as well as to Native Americans for violation of treaty rights. And some European governments have paid Holocaust survivors. There are differing opinions about the benefit of these kinds of reparations for African Americans. Some opposed to them feel that, while Holocaust survivors, for instance, were obviously directly affected by the Holocaust, slave descendants, a few generations removed from slavery, were not affected by the actual practice. Those who view restitution in this light, feel that other remedies, such as affirmative action and focusing laws and money on education for African American children, are much more useful processes in which to engage. Proponents, on the other hand, believe that the negative ripples of slavery are still felt today and as such, restitution is a reasonable and fair tool for righting wrongs. According to the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N'COBRA), "Reparations are a way of making peace with the past."

Making peace with the past is an important part of the healing process, but slavery restitution is an intense debate today and will, most likely, continue to be so into the future.

This article was originally published in March 2013, and has been updated for the November 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Salt Houses
    Salt Houses
    by Hala Alyan
    Salt Houses is the story of a Palestinian family living in Nablus; it begins on the eve of the ...
  • Book Jacket: The End of Eddy
    The End of Eddy
    by Edouard Louis
    The End of Eddy has been a publishing phenomenon in Édouard Louis' native France, where it...
  • Book Jacket: If We Were Villains
    If We Were Villains
    by M L. Rio
    22 out of 28 of our reviewers rated If We Were Villains four or five stars, giving it an overall ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Extraordinary Adventures
    by Daniel Wallace

    A large-hearted and optimistic novel that is witty, winsome, and wise.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Scribe of Siena
    by Melodie Winawer

    Equal parts transporting love story, meticulously researched historical fiction, and compelling time-travel narrative.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T's A S B Every M

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -