The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

September 4, 2013

New book, new author and MLK’s dream

Wednesday, September 4, 2013 — Last week while we were celebrating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, part of that dream came true.

It came with the publication of Jason Mott's debut novel, “The Returned.” Mott sets his book in the fictional town of Arcadia in the very real Columbus County, where Mott grew up and still lives. Arcadia, says Mott, is a combination of Bolton, his hometown, Lake Waccamaw and Whiteville.

When King gave his famous speech in 1963, Columbus County was not much different than it was in the 1950s, when two local newspapers won Pulitzer prizes for their courageous reporting of substantial Ku Klux Klan activities in the area. It was the kind of place King dreamed could be transformed so that people would be judged by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin.

What does Mott’s new book set in that county have to do with King’s dream? Mott, who is African-American, describes a fictional Columbus County where the race of its residents seems to make little difference.

To put it bluntly, you cannot tell the whites from the blacks. It is race neutral. Mott’s fictional characters then are judged by the content of their character, just the way Martin Luther King dreamed.

What about the real Columbus County? Not perfect, of course. But Mott says his home county is, for him, pretty much the way he describes it in his book.

What then is this race-neutral book about? Here is a short summary: almost 50 years ago Harold and Lucille Hargrave lost their only child to drowning on his eighth birthday. Now in their 70s, they respond to a knock at their door and are met by a federal agent who tells them he is returning their son, Jacob. The boy, or what appears to be their son, is still eight years old. He recognizes his parents even though they have aged. Harold and Lucille are too old for the job of rearing an 8-year-old, and they worry and wonder about who or what this returned “Jacob” really is.

Meanwhile, across the country and throughout the world, more and more of these returned people appear. Their growing numbers create numerous problems. Anti-returned popular movements emerge and threaten violence against the strange beings. The government orders that the returned people be collected and held in camps. One of these confinement camps is established in Arcadia. Little Jacob is held there, and Harold goes in with him.

Once Mott persuades his readers to believe this speculative premise of dead people reappearing, they must deal with moral questions that are raised by society’s treatments of the returned people. Mott says that his study of the confinement of ethnic Japanese in the United States during World War II had an impact on him. The confinement and discrimination against the returned people in Mott’s story also evokes memories of the Holocaust, slave codes, and the challenges of dealing with illegal immigration.

Mott is a talented storyteller and “The Returned” belongs in the tradition of other important books like “Gulliver's Travels” and “1984,” which raised important social or political issues, but required the suspension of disbelief to appreciate the story.

“The Returned” should be a bestseller because it tells an entertaining and provocative story. But its success is assured because a new ABC television series, “Resurrection,” based on the book and starring Omar Epps, begins March 2014. For an introduction to the story, take a look at the trailer for the new television series at: http: //abc.go.com/shows/resurrection/blogs/news/sneak-peek-video

It will make you want to watch the television series. Before that, read the book, and get the feeling that a small part of Martin Luther King’s dream has come true.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch.

1
Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • taylor.armerding.jpg Obama's equal pay exaggeration leads us all into danger

    The president's claims of national shame over gender-based pay inequity spring from distorted calculations, as well as some convenient political math.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Teens trading naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 12, 2014

  • Brent Laurenz If you want to vote in primary, you need to register to vote now

    RALEIGH – North Carolina voters will head to the polls on May 6 this year to cast ballots in important primary elections across the state.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Scott Mooneyham Heeding the voter fraud call in N.C.

    RALEIGH – Legislators found the findings outrageous.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Roots

    I took a few minutes over the weekend to enjoy our yard and the arrival of spring. There seems to be so much work that needs to be done, it is hard to decide what to do first. I am excited that I got to run my tiller through the garden. I didn’t go very deep, but I did at least break up the soil. I have a couple of raised beds and the soil in them was in very good shape. I didn’t plant my peas and now after the big rain we got on Monday I realize that I missed a window of opportunity.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 10 tips for surviving a severe allergy season

    My colleague Brady Dennis reported recently that the arrival of warmer weather will soon unleash a pollen tsunami in parts of the country where the winter has been especially long and cold. Here are some survival tips from Clifford W. Bassett, an allergy specialist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine.

    April 11, 2014

  • Is a paleo vegetarian diet possible?

    Research shows most people can follow a regimented eating plan for a short time. That's not the challenge. The challenge is finding a healthful eating plan you can follow day after day and achieve your long-term health goals. At this point, it doesn't appear that the paleo eating plan meets these objectives for most people.

    April 10, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 2.16.35 PM.png Are Americans smart to stop drinking diet sodas?

    Recent data from Beverage Digest suggest many are cutting back on diet sodas. Consumption of diet sodas fell more than that of sugary sodas in 2013. This raises two questions: Why is total consumption declining, and is drinking diet soda harmful to health?

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • To get quality care, it helps to be the right kind of patient

    I am a family physician. Sometimes I must step out of the comfort of my clinical role and into that of patient or family caregiver. Generally, these trips to the other side of the exam table inspire a fair amount of anxiety.

    April 10, 2014

  • Hospice of Stanly County should be the one we support

    Regarding your recent article about Community Hospice relocating its offices from one location in Troy to another, let me point out a few things.

    April 10, 2014

House Ads
Seasonal Content