Book: South of Haunted Dreams by Eddy L. Harris
Publisher: Owl Books, Henry Holt and Company
Publication date: 1997 (first published in 1993)
Summary: Eddy Harris, an African-American who grew up near where I live in the St. Louis region, takes a journey by motorcycle through the Deep South of the United States, encountering personal and societal demons about race.
Thoughts: South of Haunted Dreams was the April Selection for our Diversity Book Club. This was our second selection by Eddy Harris — we also read Native Stranger a few years ago about his travels in Africa. He mentioned that journey as a partial purpose for the one he takes in the South of Haunted Dreams on page 30:
I did not travel to Africa to find my roots. My roots are here. The thinnest tips that branch deep deep deep into the earth to suck sustenance from the soil might indeed extend all the way to Africa, but those are the roots of my blackness. They affect the color of my skin, the texture of my hair. But I am not African. The soil from which I draw my strength, my pride, and my happiness is American soil.
In the beginning of the journey, Eddy is angry. About midway through the journey, he begins to look for his ancestor, Joseph, a freed slave. Joseph becomes his 19th-century hero, an answer to the romanticized history of Robert E. Lee. Things turn around for Eddy and it’s a beautiful thing to watch — culminating in this observation on page 165:
Because of the way other folks see us I have always been linked to black people. Now I am liked because of how I see us. And I see now that being black is not only about slavery. It is about strength and patience, about pain and survival and connectedness. It is about courage. It is about sacrifice and it is about love. Being black is about hope.
Appeal: For lovers of memoir and accounts of internal and external travels.
What journeys have changed the way you think about yourself and your life?