Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

Guest Post by Carolyn Taylor: We Are Who We Are

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photoSay you’re stranded on a desert island.  With Carolyn Taylor.  Not only will she figure out a way to send morse code signals to ships and satellites, she will also identify and help you avoid poisonous vegetation.  In the meanwhile she will start a fire and begin roasting anything edible.  It is unlikely that she will break a sweat – and she will never lose her cool.  I highly recommend her company and counsel in any crisis!  Today she offers some Lessons from Tallie as well as a review of a popular current read, The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd.

From Carolyn:  If you know me well, you have certainly heard a Tallie story.  Tallie is my British lab.  She stole our hearts as the runt of the litter with her liquid brown eyes and cute black nose.  Fast forward eight years, and I’d have to admit that I have learned more from her than from any other creature on the planet.  The list could go on, but I will share my three favorite Lessons From Tallie:

1.  “We Are Who We Are” (otherwise known as “Dogs are Like People”) – Tallie arrived with a gentle nature and a knack for destroying tallieshoepersonal property and putting herself in danger.  No matter how much we coax and train her, she will always want to hide our shoes, eat the ping pong paddles (she adds one a week to her diet), surf the kitchen counters, and dig up the prettiest flowers.  She was created with these particular ambitions, and we can’t change them.

2.  “Greatness Can be Found Where you Least Expect It” – By the time Tallie was one, I had saved her life twice with emergency trips to the vet, replaced shutters on my house that she had eaten off, and installed fencing outside to prevent her from electrocuting herself (something she was well on her way to doing).  Needless to say, my expectations for Tallie were low.  Around this time, my younger daughter Eleanor was learning to dive for toys in the deep end of our pool.  Tallie noticed this change, and whenever Eleanor ducked underwater, Tallie carefully watched, and then barked in alarm until she resurfaced.  She did this all summer.  That is greatness in a dog, and I never expected it from mine.

3.  “Be Gracious” – We never know what life has in store for us, and for Tallie it delivered a little brother when she was six.  Buddy the beautiful Cavalier King Charles puppy arrived and stole the attention, the bones, and sometimes even the big dog bed.  I have never seen Tallie snap at him once, and he rocked her world.  Which brings us back to Lesson #1, “We Are Who We Are.” Despite her maddening bad habits, Tallie is a good and gracious dog.

Carolyn on The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd:

9780670024780_p0_v3_s114x166Sarah Grimké is one of the most courageous women you have never heard of, and The Invention of Wings is her story.  Sue Monk Kidd meticulously researched her life, and this novel stays true to history, adding fictionalized details to fill in the gaps.  The setting is Charleston in the early 1800’s and the story revolves around the lives of four incredible women: Sarah, her little sister Angelina, her slave Hetty, and Hetty’s Mauma.

Sarah Grimké’s first memory, at age four, was the whipping of a family slave in her yard.  Sarah was growing up as a privileged Charleston girl, and after witnessing that brutal scene, she went mute for days.  Her voice returned with a stutter that she fought for years, but she rose to become an abolitionist leader who spent much of her adult life publicly speaking against slavery.

In the novel, Sarah receives Hetty as an 11th birthday present and immediately tries to give her back.  Sarah’s parents deny the request, and she decides to secretly teach Hetty to read – a criminal offense.  The teaching is discovered, and Hetty is whipped.  In real life, Hetty’s story sadly ends here and she dies of “an unspecified disease” following her beating.  In the novel, Hetty lives as a girl learning strength and determination from her incredible Mauma, who keeps their personal family story alive through a hidden quilt more precious to them than anything else.

Along the way, Sarah’s little sister Angelina is born, and Sarah raises her to share her beliefs against slavery.  They grow up trying to simultaneously navigate and rebel against the Charleston society surrounding them.  Eventually, they are banished from Charleston for their outspoken views, leaving their home and Hetty behind.

The relationships among these women, especially between Sarah and Hetty, are complicated, and they should be, given their circumstances.  Each of these women is incredibly brave, and I love Sarah for her moral compass, Mauma for her spirit, Angelina for her devotion to Sarah, and most of all, fictionalized Hetty for her patience and intelligence.  As for the real Hetty, we’ll never know what she could have been, but Sue Monk Kidd has given her some justice through this book.

7 Comments

  1. Thank you for such a powerful and poignant post! Rushing out to get the book today and looking forward to giving Tallie a big belly rub when I see her. Thank you, Carolyn and Jennifer.

  2. I will tell Carolyn! I love her post, too!! Thank you so much for your comment, Louise.

  3. Great post, Carolyn! I just found your blog, Jennifer, through a post Barbara Keith had on FB. I’ve been jotting down all sorts of books I need to read now.

    • I’m so glad you’re finding some recommendations you like, and I’m especially glad you found this post!!

  4. Excellent post, Carolyn. Thank you for sharing your spirit here, too!

  5. Love every bit of this post. The Tallie stories are treasures, and your praise for Kidd ‘ s book is sending me straight to Parnassus!

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