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The Good Lord Bird (2013)

de James McBride

Outros autores: Veja a seção outros autores.

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2,0791217,815 (3.9)217
Fiction. African American Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, when the region is a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces. When John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry's master quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave town - with Brown, who believes he's a girl. Over the ensuing months, Henry - whom Brown nicknames Little Onion - conceals his true identity as he struggles to stay alive. Eventually Little Onion finds himself with Brown at the historic raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859 - one of the great catalysts for the Civil War. An absorbing mixture of history and imagination, The Good Lord Bird is both a rousing adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival.… (mais)
  1. 10
    Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All de Allan Gurganus (novelcommentary)
    novelcommentary: Similar style and time period
  2. 21
    The Sisters Brothers de Patrick deWitt (starfishian)
    starfishian: Another historical romp. Fun to read.
  3. 10
    Cloudsplitter de Russell Banks (quartzite)
    quartzite: Another fictional take on the John Brown story, this one told through the voice of his third son Owen.
  4. 00
    Flashman and the Angel of the Lord de George MacDonald Fraser (Lirmac)
    Lirmac: Another fictionalised account of John Brown and Harper's Ferry.
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Mostrando 1-5 de 123 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
When a young and independent country failed to rise up to right a moral injustice, John Brown took the law into his own hands and set about to free the slaves with a handful of volunteers. If he had acted today John Brown might have been considered a terrorist and vilified by young and old alike. And that is how history plays tricks with us. It tells us that maybe we have not acted righteously. That maybe we have been narrow and self-serving. It seems an odd story to leaven with humour, what James McBride has done in The Good Lord Bird. But I suppose that is how McBride needed to loosen our prejudices just a little to let moral sink in. There is injustice all around us. We choose which injustice we will fight and which injustice we will not fight. Jeb Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee make cameo appearances at the end of the story, at the hanging of John Brown. In a few short months these men -- generally held as heroes to the Southern cause -- will join an insurrection of a different nature. Stonewall Jackson, like Brown, was a deeply religious man. I wonder if he thought, like Brown, that The Lord was on his side. Then there's the matter of Onion, the unreliable narrator. Onion is a youth Brown "liberates" from a Kansas bar and mistakes him for a girl. Onion the negro boy in girl's clothing filters the story for us...and adds a few juicy details of his own: his stint as a servant in a Kansas brothel, his hidden passion for Brown's daughter, his bumbling efforts to stir the blacks of Maryland and Virginia into supporting Brown's rebellion, and his botched seduction by abolitionist Frederick Douglas. Throughout the story Onion is urged to "be a man" both figuratively and literally. That would require him to shed a layer or two of his disguise. The author needed some way into the story because there are few sources to illuminate what actually happened. While one could assume that Onion is a surrogate for all black Americans working for do-gooder whites, he also can be seen as a stand-in for us all. Onion tries hard not to choose sides and save his skin. Much like we do. Try hard to ignore the moral issues and maybe we won't have to declare ourselves. Take sides. Incur danger. Maybe the moral issues will disappear. Onion is a coward. On the outer layer. And on the inner layers, too. Here is where I feel on a little unsteady ground. Why would the narrator be a coward? Why would McBride hand us such a weak-kneed narrator? Is it that the threat of violence, the history of intimidation and debasement more than anything prevented the Maryland negroes from joining John Brown in his crusade? Nobody wanted their freedom more than the negro in those days, you can be sure of that. Their political freedom came a few short years later, but not their social freedom, not their mobility, or their freedom from prejudice and violence. ( )
  MylesKesten | Jan 23, 2024 |
This historical fiction novel about abolitionist John Brown and his raid on Harper's Ferry is full of drama, humor, and nonsense. It's a big cast of characters who seem larger than life and somewhat unrealistic. But at the same time, the book is clearly rooted in real events and from what I know of John Brown, he was slightly unhinged. So maybe McBride gets it right.

The main character is a boy named Henry who joins up with John Brown when his father is killed. John Brown thinks he's a girl, and Henry spends the next years of his life as Henrietta, because it's just easier. Nicknamed Little Onion by Brown, Henry is black but light colored enough to pass for white, and male but feminine enough looking to pass for a girl. The action moves from Kansas to Philadelphia to Canada and to Harper's Ferry. Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman both make appearances.

I admired this book, but I didn't love it. It was a bit too violent and a bit too over the top for my taste. ( )
  japaul22 | Dec 29, 2023 |
The Good Lord Bird, written by James McBride, won the National Book Award for fiction in 2013. It's been on my to read list ever since. It's a wild work of historical fiction and a work that features wonderful folksy language, scandalous caricatures of historical persons, and one that possesses a flair for the historical mining of our past - particularly that of John Brown and the institution of slavery. It's a risky book. One that balances maladroit jokes about slavery with the heartfelt conviction that all of God's children deserve to be free. The humor and the musicality of voice lures you into the violence of the 19th century and allows one to wrestle with the bigger issues of violence, slavery, and the way we romanticize the past. But McBride knows how to shock, to tickle your funny bone, all while making you think about these serious issues. This is no small feat.

As The Good Lord Bird starts, the memoirs of Henry Shackleford, an enslaved person in Kansas during the Bleeding Kansas era, are discovered in a Delaware church. Henry, nicknamed "Little Onion" for eating a particularly rancid onion, accidentally encounters abolitionist John Brown in a tavern. Brown mistakes Henry for a girl and gives him a dress to wear as Brown rescues him after the death of his pa; Shackleford wears a dress for much of the novel. The two join together, and Henry narrates his encounters with Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and the events at John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry. The book is delightfully narrated in the first person through Henry using such folksy language that would cause Mark Twain to cheer.

The Good Lord Bird is an incredible journey, rich in language and characterization and steeped in history. McBride studiously honors history, perhaps more than many previous portraits of Brown have done. Sure, he plays with the facts a bit - where he can - but this creates, in my opinion, more interesting characterization. For instance, take John Brown. McBride portrays Brown as a little off kilter, displaying the intensity of a religious zealot, while not quite realizing his goal is beyond his grasp. Does McBride take some liberties? Yes. And depending on your point of view, you may or may not like what he does with Frederick Douglas.

I found this novel to be a thoughtful, moving, and entertaining look at many hypocrisies of the era . I thought it was also a wonderful mediation on the nature of conviction, and the dangers of belief. Yes, John Brown was right....Slavery is and was an immoral institution but, killing is always an immoral act. I also found this novel to be fascinating in how it humanizes historical figures - with warts and all.

Ultimately, The Good Lord Bird is successful because even as a piece of historical fiction and satirical comedy, it has important things to say not just about America of the 1850s but America today.

I'm sure if John Brown were alive today, he wouldn't rest until all of God's children are free. ( )
  ryantlaferney87 | Dec 8, 2023 |
From Wikipedia:
A 2013 novel by James McBride about Henry Shackleford, an enslaved person, who unites with John Brown in Brown's abolitionist mission. The novel won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2013 and received generally positive reviews from critics.

Plot
The memoirs of Henry Shackleford, an enslaved person in Kansas during the Bleeding Kansas era, are discovered in a Delaware church. Henry, nicknamed "Little Onion" for eating a particularly rancid onion, accidentally encounters abolitionist John Brown in a tavern. Brown mistakes Henry for a girl and gives him a dress to wear; Shackleford wears a dress for much of the novel. The two join together, and Henry narrates his encounters with Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and the events at John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry. The book is narrated in the first person through Henry.

From Me: If McBride's history is anywhere near accurate, then this is a tragic tale indeed. Moving. Memorable. ( )
  ParadisePorch | Nov 24, 2023 |
I would love to know what happened to Onion in the rest of his life. ( )
  Maryjane75 | Sep 30, 2023 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 123 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
The book appears to be very random, as though the author and his editor had failed to spot that there are a troublesome number of repetitions and inconsistencies. Brown’s endless praying seems to be a comedic line that McBride has overinvested in.... McBride’s other running joke is that most of the slaves have not the slightest interest in being liberated.... Onion, although occupying hundreds of pages, is never interesting or even fully realised.... After the inevitable tragedy of Harper’s Ferry..., Onion finds his way to Philadelphia and freedom. Unexpectedly, this final section of the book really takes wing and almost redeems what I think is a missed opportunity.
adicionado por Muscogulus | editarThe Spectator, Justin Cartwright (Jan 25, 2014)
 
...unpretentious, very funny, and totally endearing.... Still, any comic novel about such a calamitous time is a daring conceit, which in the wrong hands could go painfully wrong. McBride’s America feels huge, chaotic, and very much in formation.... Comparisons to Twain are inevitable, particularly given McBride’s use of vernacular.... But the raucous joy of traveling with Brown and his army also recalls Chaucer and Boccaccio. Brown may not be a polished hero, but he’s certainly an entertaining one, particularly with his band of not-so-merry men and one spunky, cross-dressing kid in tow.
 
This is a story that popular culture doesn't often visit, and it takes a daring writer to tackle a decidedly unflattering pre-Civil War story. Yet, in McBride's capable hands, the indelicate matter of a befuddled tween from the mid-19th century provides a new perspective on one of the most decisive periods in the history of this country.
adicionado por Muscogulus | editarNPR, Bobbi Booker (Aug 23, 2013)
 
In McBride’s version of events, John Brown’s body doesn’t lie a-mouldering in the grave—he’s alive and vigorous and fanatical and doomed, so one could say his soul does indeed go marching on.... McBride presents an interesting experiment in point of view here, as all of Brown’s activities are filtered through the eyes of a young adolescent who wavers between innocence and cynicism.
adicionado por Muscogulus | editarKirkus Reviews (Aug 20, 2013)
 
There is something deeply humane in this, something akin to the work of Homer or Mark Twain. We tend to forget that history is all too often made by fallible beings who make mistakes, calculate badly, love blindly and want too much. We forget, too, that real life presents utterly human heroes with far more contingency than history books can offer. McBride’s Little Onion — a sparkling narrator who is sure to win new life on the silver screen — leads us through history’s dark corridors, suggesting that “truths” may actually lie elsewhere.
adicionado por zhejw | editarWashington Post, Marie Arana (Aug 19, 2013)
 

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James McBrideautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Boatman, MichaelReaderautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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Prologue: 
Rare Negro Papers Found
by A.J. Watson
Wilmington, Del. (AP)
June 14, 1966
A fire that destroyed the city's oldest Negro church has led to the discovery of a wild slave narrative that highlights a little-known era of American history

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Fiction. African American Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, when the region is a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces. When John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry's master quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave town - with Brown, who believes he's a girl. Over the ensuing months, Henry - whom Brown nicknames Little Onion - conceals his true identity as he struggles to stay alive. Eventually Little Onion finds himself with Brown at the historic raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859 - one of the great catalysts for the Civil War. An absorbing mixture of history and imagination, The Good Lord Bird is both a rousing adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival.

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