This is the historical account of the great migration of African Americans from the south to the industrial north and west during the 20th century. It follows three individuals from three different decades as they struggle in the Jim Crow south and then meet different challenges after migrating.
Many of the experiences are harsh, and the readers empathy builds as these good people face one injustice after another. That they persevere and sometimes succeed is remarkable.
At first the book reads like a novel, and is easy to get absorbed in. I didn't finish it because it was an e-book from the library and it expired, and also because I got bogged down in the repetition of the message. That is not to say that I don't recommend this book. I do. There is much to be learned and much insight to be gained in these pages.
But it led nicely into the last book I just finished, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Henrietta was a poor black tobacco farmer who migrated to Baltimore in the 1940's. When she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, from which she soon died, cells from her tumor were harvested at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, and because they grew so well in culture, they became known as HeLa and were vital in developing polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping and much more. They are still used widely today. Those cells are immortal.
But this is really the story of Henrietta and her family. Her cells were taken without permission or the knowledge of her family. As the fame of her cells grew, many sought out family members to learn the story of the woman behind the cells. Through the hardship of poverty and lack of education, family members struggle to understand and deal with their "immortal" mother and wife. Many are angry that millions of dollars are made from these cells while they have nothing, but others are also very proud of the contribution to medical science that these cells have made. What they all want is recognition of the woman they came from, Henrietta Lacks.
To quote from the book jacket, the result is " funny, tender.....A cast of characters whose anger, generosity, pride and improbable grace make them impossible to forget."