Wednesday, March 10, 2010

One Step Back, Now Full Steam Ahead

Okay, I know I am mixing my metaphors, but, hopefully, I am communicating where I am at present.

In my last post, I mentioned six books that arrived Monday. A seventh arrived Tuesday (That is not counting the three that arrived last week that have nothing to do with my research for Aurora Rescue.) As of this morning, Wednesday, I have read the better part of three of them, and a bit of the fourth. The ones that explained the actual conditions slaves in the United State in general and women slaves in particular endured prior to emancipation gave me two things. First, I received additional insights into the actual conditions, not the perceived conditions as portrayed in much of the literature out there, regarding those who were forced into slavery.

Second, there were several quotes by slaves or former slaves in their dialect. I do not need to worry as much about critics saying Black people do not talk that way today. I have information from the records showing how they talked then.

Even the diary of Agnes Lee, the daughter of General Robert E. Lee of Civil War fame, written when she was a teenager in the 1850's gave me a glimpse into the attitudes of some white families. She mentioned a few times she taught her "dark" or "sable" students on Sunday nights even though she was a student herself during the week. She made several affectionate references to her "mammy", who was old, grew sick and died during the time covered by the journal. The thing I found most interesting was that she always referred to the family's slaves as servants, never as slaves. Yet, I know from the other sources I read that this was not typical of the conditions most slaves lived under.

And, call it what you will, compulsory servitude is not freedom.

I also spoke with a person whose opinion I value because she is in a position to be well-acquainted with young adult fiction. Also, although I do not know her history or where she grew up, she has some Negro heritage. (I cannot say African heritage, because the discoveries in DNA and genetics these days indicate we ALL have African heritage. The only question is, how far back do each of us go until we find our ancestors in Africa?) Anyway, she gave me her opinion about a few things that helped me know I was on a safe (read: "non-offensive to most") track.

This morning I took all the samples of slave dialect that I had marked with torn strips of post-it note paper and typed them up for reference. I made a spreadsheet with the words and their meanings based on usage and sorted them in alphabetical order. I will adjust my dialog to reflect the majority usage of the dialect I found in my research (even in these direct quotes, there were some differences of pronunciation based on spelling) and move ahead with my story.

I really like my Kezia character. She is a woman of her time who was shaped by her experiences. She is also a courageous heroine, and a determined role model who knows what she wants in life. She is going to show up in future books--at least two of the five. I want her to be someone my readers will look forward to meeting again after they finish reading Aurora Rescue.

No comments:

Post a Comment