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626 pages, ebook
First published February 15, 2022
I warn them that I was a ruthless woman, and if you send me into any place, save for any woman or child, I am the only one leaving there alive.
"But not you, Sogolon the baddest woman alive."
"Never meet one to take the claim from me."
When I was done with the Cheetah Society, those who still live fumble through the dark on broken bones, searching for limbs that no science will sew back. Those who die lie stuck in the mud, but their blood wash out into the lake, making the mouth of the tunnel look like it bleed. Hairy feet I kick out of the way, hairy heads the wind (not wind) sweep in and crack open. A dagger fall out of the hand when I kick an arm and break the elbow. I stomp right to the end of the tunnel, stabbing, slicing, kicking, chopping, and slamming any limb that come across my way. The wind (not wind) do everything else.
If book one centers on the nature of storytelling, this volume turns its focus to memory, archiving, and history as Sogolon works to correct the record. The two stories run parallel to and contradict each other, and James mines the distance between them to raise powerful questions about whether truth is possible when the power of storytelling is available only to a few.
Now is the night, girl, say a voice that sound like her. Now is the night to make distance between you and every white woman. Now is the night to run.
But where she running to? say another voice that sound like her. Sogolon hear this voice before, one that sound closer to her, a voice that slow down her step and calm her heart. No. Calm is not what it do to her heart. The voice don't slow it down with peace, but with confusion and fear. Right here is the bad she know, out there is the good she don't, which could be worse than bad. Worse than worse. So the voice telling her. But Sogolon getting tired of that voice, tired of its mosquito buzzing in and out of her ear. No bad that she know sound better than the bad she don't, when that bad is her brothers chaining her around the neck and putting her to live in a termite hill. The bad that she know is Miss Azora training her to be a whore, then auctioning off her koo to the first rapist. The bad she know is the mistress giving her away like a trinket, and the master and his wicked cock, the sharp point of his rage. The bad that she know can go lie down and spread its legs and get ripped open by a buffalo's cock. She would rather run off a cliff, wade into the deep part of the river, run down a road with no marker, or where there is no road. Is not where you running to, she tell that feeble voice, getting feebler. Is the running itself. Not knowing where to go is what stop too many from going, keep too many staying, and leave too many not knowing that it don't matter where you running to as long as you run. Not seeing what lay before them never stop anyone from running in the dark. Girl, nobody here give a care for where you go, not even you, so make distance between you and them. You cannot stay here.