More summer reading fun


Got books? If you do, then you must have spent this summer reading as many books as I have. As I did in a previous column, I’ll recommend some more books from my summer reading list.

  1. The Black Count by Tom Reiss: the subtitle of this book is “Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo.”

Reiss’ work is a biography of General Alexandre Dumas, the mulatto son of a French nobleman and a slave Haitian mother who rose to the highest ranks of the French army during the French Revolution.

Dumas, was the father of another Alexandre Dumas, the one that wrote The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. The latter work was based, in part, Reiss says, on the younger Dumas’ account of his father being briefly imprisoned on his return home from Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt.

The elder Alexandre Dumas was one of France’s boldest, most fearless and successful generals. Reiss’ book is so excellent that it won a Pulitzer Prize.

Now that the book has won a Pulitzer, it remains to be seen who will play Alexandre Dumas when The Black Count is made into a movie.

Will Smith? Terence Howard? Jamie Foxx? Cuba Gooding Jr.?

Dumas, was in his mid-40s when he died in 1806. All the actors mentioned above are in their mid-40s. (Sorry, Denzel fans; he’s pushing 60 and way too old to play The Black Count.)

  1. Guest of Honor by Deborah Davis: the subtitle of this one is “Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation.”

Over a century before a distinctly black President Barack Obama began hosting his own White House dinners, President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to dine in the executive mansion.

That was in 1901. The reaction from whites, especially those in the South, was what we would expect from white Americans in 1901. Davis makes it a point to let her readers know how deep the racism ran.

This is a quote from a paper called “The Memphis Scimitar” about Washington’s dining at the White House:

“The most damnable outrage which has ever been perpetuated by any citizen of the United States was committed yesterday by the President when he invited a nigger to dine with him at the White House. He has not inflamed the anger of the Southern people; he has excited their disgust.”

From the “Memphis Commercial Appeal”: “This is a white man’s country. President Roosevelt has committed a blunder that is worse than a crime.”

Ponder those quotes as you consider the first line of Earl Ofari Hutchison’s recent column in the Huffington Post: “A recent Rasmussen poll found that more Americans by a wide margin think blacks are more racist than whites.”

Those Americans haven’t read Davis’ book. My suspicion is they haven’t read much of anything else either.

  1. The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill: you won’t find this work by that title in any American bookstore. Here Hill’s historical novel is known by the title Somebody Knows My Name.

Because of political correctness— and because of the propensity of American blacks to be so easily offended by just about anything— Hill’s work is called The Book of Negroes only in Canada.

When I ordered the book from, I made it a point to order the one with the politically incorrect title.

What? You thought I was going to order the one with the politically correct title? Now what, in my history, would lead you to believe I would do THAT?

The Book of Negroes tells of the travails and travels of a Fula girl named Aminata Diallo. Slavers capture her, along with her mother. Aminata ends up in the Carolinas, separated forever from her mother. (Her father was killed trying to rescue her.)

From the Carolinas Aminata finds her way to New York, then Nova Scotia and finally London. Information in something called “The Book of Negroes” figures prominently in her journeys.

Hill’s book is quite a compelling read. And that’s true no matter what title it has.