The Struggle is Real: Representation of the Middle Passage in Literature

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Every race, culture, and member of humanity has a struggle. And their struggles are what make stories, stories that are written on paper, stories that are published, that we pick up at our libraries and bookstores. These stories are the ones that we read, that expose us to new ideas, comfort us, and give us a window into someone else’s experience.

But why is it that one group of people’s story gets repeated over and over but another’s are only whispered on certain days? Why is it that there is a plethora of stories about the horrors of the Holocaust, but comparably fewer about the Middle Passage?

The Middle Passage is the journey slaves took from their homeland of Africa to the unknown soil of America. They were packed together tightly in the bowels of the ship, like they were nothing more than common cargo. Buckets of freezing water were tossed onto their bruised bodies. They were forced to dance to joyless beats for “exercise”. Young girls were ritually raped by sailors. And all these horrors were only the beginning of the life of hardship that was waiting for them in the Americas.

There are many answers to the question of why there are so few middle passage books, especially in MG and YA historical fiction. But one answer lies within the fact of who tells the story.

We all want to feel comfortable. Most books that are popular and receive the most exposure are written by white Americans. It’s much more comfortable for Americans to sympathize with the Jews, some of them are Jewish themselves and had ancestors with first hand knowledge. The Holocaust happened far away. And was the fault of the Nazis.

In contrast these authors great-great-great-grandparents could have been slave owners, deck hands and ship captains. It hits so much closer to home.

Also, writing about the Middle Passage would require more research, since  there are probably not any witnesses like there are for the Holocaust.

Because these stories are difficult to hear and to write is all the more reason to hear and write them. I do not discount the Holocaust and I believe it should be remembered. Nor do I think the Middle Passage is the only story of a struggle that needs to be told. But it is an important part of the history of America and of the world. And it must be remembered and told.

I have read a few excellent books about The Middle Passage that I will feature in an up coming post.

Until next time

Stay fly friends

~Akilah

Have you read any good books about the Middle Passage or other unknown struggles?

 

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