By September 13, 2008 2 Comments Read More →

Beyond Huck Finn: MY JIM

My Jim Cover

Great works of literature have often inspired other works in large and small ways.  Sometimes that inspiration takes the form of imitation or a classic becomes a jumping off point for another work.

I’m talking about how Jean Rhys wrote Wide Sargasso Sea as a prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, telling the story of the mad woman in the attic and how she got there.  Or Sena Jeter Naslund’s Ahab’s Wife, in which Una, wife and widow to the ship captain in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, tells her own impressive story of survivalNot to mention Alice Randall’s The Wind Done Gone, the controversial take on Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind, where Mammy and the slaves on the Tara estate tell their side of the story.

Nancy Rawles enters into this fine tradition with her novel, My JimTaking Mark Twain’s classic, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as her inspiration, Rawles tells the story of Sadie Watson, a young woman born into slavery.  Told in Sadies’s voice and dialect, she tells us about her love for Jim, the man who becomes Huck’s companion.  While Jim becomes a free man, Sadie lives most of her life without him, seeing their children sold away from them.  But Sadie’s story, while painful, is fueled by the love passed down from generation to generation, the love and hope that somehow survived the horrific inhumanity of slavery.  Sadie tells her story to her granddaughter, Marianne, and unleashes a lifetime of pain, sorrow and the ghosts of the past.Rawles crafts a powerful voice of witness in Sadie.  I thought My Jim was the most powerful, fictional slave narrative I have read since Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Like the characters in Morrison’s book, you feel for Sadie and Jim and Sadie’s children, and are horrified by the grim reality they face. But somehow, Rawles manages to let the enduring capacity to love shine through in this often painful and horrific story that is a quintessential American story.

I finished this book in tears.   I cannot imagine anyone not crying when they put down this book.

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About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

2 Comments on "Beyond Huck Finn: MY JIM"

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  1. mquinn@ala.org' Mary Ellen says:

    The author who seems to have spawned the most imitations and spin-offs is Jane Austen. Some of these imitations are very good, and manage to capture a bit of the sparkle of the originals. And some are very bad.

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