Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Review: Daughters of the Dust By Julie Dash

When choosing books to read for the Southern Literature Reading Challenge, I quickly thought of Daughters of the Dust by Julie Dash.  This is one of those very rare occurrences when the book was written following the movie by the same name.  Now, I have seen the movie on several occasions, and even used it once in the classroom when teaching college freshmen. ( For one semester, I chose to teach novels that presented the folk legend of the Flying Africans).  I should note, my students were not overly impressed with the movie (something about it being too slow) and I must admit, if you're not familiar with Gullah/Geechee Folklore, the beauty of the film may be lost.  But for now, let's talk about the book...

During the height of Harlem's celebrated literary Renaissance, the young and aspiring college student, Amelia Varnes, leaves New York and returns to the isolated sea coast islands of South Carolina to trace her mother's family history.  Amelia's  growing friendship with her cousin Elizabeth puts into motion the discovery of the Peazant family origins and history, enriched with tradition and folklore, as well as stories of Africa, of slavery, and emancipation,.  Amelia's college research project quickly becomes a journey of self-discovery and enlightenment.

My Review:
I enjoyed reading this novel, and yet, in the end I felt just a bit disappointed.  Dash provided a wonderful abundance of  African folklore as well as Gullah history and culture which I found to be the most appealing aspects of the novel.  However, as a literary work,  I feel the overall development of characters was lacking, as though each character were merely a vehicle in which to convey various traditions, and the plot itself lacked a serious sense of direction and often times wandered.  For some readers, Dash's use of dialect may be troublesome.  Personally, I love reading dialect and find it to provide a greater sense of authenticity.  If you're not familiar with dialect, here's a brief sample from the novel:
De elders start to callin on de ol spirits, cryin out to Yemoja, Oshun, Elegba, Ogun! Don't let dis gal leave here! Now dem ol spirits, dey been waitin for de call.
Overall, Dash has provided a novel rich with history, folklore, and tradition, and on that basis alone I would  recommend Daughters of the Dust.
My rating: 4
Recommendations for further viewing/reading:
Video Interview with Julie Dash regarding the making of the film.
The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton (Children's Literature)
The Legacy of Ibo Landing: Gullah Roots of African American Culture by Marquetta L. Goodwine

* As a side note, I've been craving Gumbo since reading this novel!  Stop by tomorrow and I'll share my recipe with ya'll!


  1. There's just so many books out there that I need to read and reading good reviews like this is a good start.

    I'm following you now via GFC from "follow us monday morning" blog hop.

    Please support me by commenting in this post:

    Thanks very much and happy monday! :)


  2. A very interesting review. Thanks for sharing. I found you from Put up your latest blog.

  3. I'm starting to wonder if something is going on with astrology (this is the fourth less than purely desirable book rating I've seen on blogs these past few minutes of surfing).

    May the next one be much more compelling and uplifting to write about. Whoot!

  4. I do enjoy dialect once I get the hang of it, but I can get a little frustrated when I'm first starting to get it sorted out in my head. I don't know if this is a book for me, but I am interested in the movie. Thanks for mentioning my challenge!


I love hearing your thoughts, opinions, and comments in general!