Reviews of Daughters of the Dust (1997)
Review by mojosmom (2006-09-11)
Wow. Julie Dash’s film of the same name is way up on my list of all time favorite movies. It is set on one day in the life of the Peazant family, as they prepare to leave Dawtuh Island (a fictional South Carolina Sea Island that has been their home since slavery) and head for New York. That was in 1902.
Now it is 1926 and she is telling us the story of two of the descendants: Amelia, granddaughter of Haagar, who went north, and Elizabeth, the Unborn Child of the film and the daughter of Eula and Eli, who stayed. Elizabeth has gone off island to be educated, but has returned to teach the children. Amelia, who is studying anthropology, has come to the island to do field work. Through their eyes, the story of the inhabitants’ past and present is told.
What a risk Dash took in writing this book. Her film was so beautiful and meant so much, how could she write a novel that was a sequel that even came close? But, oh, how she succeeded. We learn the back stories, why Haagar was so hard, the rest of Yellow Mary’s story, the lives of the first of the captives to come to Dawtuh Island.
Dash has taken many of the characters from the film and fleshed them out, given us the full stories of their lives and so much more. There is the story of the Devries sisters (Evangeline & Genevieve Bouvier), and the interracial marriage that one of them made, unknowingly, and its impact on the present. Elizabeth's clash with the school board over teaching the children of her class their history. The heartrending story of Lucy's finding of the bones of drowned slaves, and the stirring story of their reburial according to the ancient traditions.
This is a stunning book. The end leaves open the possibilty of more, and I so want to know what happens next ot Elizabeth and Amelia!