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.
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!