Jonathan Odell's powerful novel takes us to a familiar place: a plantation in the Deep South before the Civil War. Readers will recognize the columned house, the working slaves, the inhumane master, but The Healing is not merely a portrait of slave life. It is a penetrating analysis of identity - the acquisition of it and the ways in which a person can claim an independent self when all forces seem to be against them. In this case, the forces are the slave system and the individual struggling to understand her role in the world is a young slave girl named Granada, who has the misfortune of crossing the path of her sociopathic mistress. Mistress Amanda believes she can reclaim some semblance of her daughter's life by dressing up Granada in the dead girl's old clothes and parading the slave girl in front of white guests, just as she would a real daughter. The result is half-comic, half-...
As a part of his research for The Healing, in 2002, Jonathan Odell interviewed Mrs. Willie Turner, a 91-year-old retired midwife who - like his character Polly Shine - was responsible for providing midwife services to African-American women in Mississippi. Click on the video below to hear a portion of the interview or click here to go to the complete interview page.
(Most of the photos used in the video are of ex-slaves, midwives, and sharecroppers taken in the 1930s by artists working for the WPA, archived in the Library of Congress. Video was developed by James Kuether and Random House.)
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