Title: The Revisioners
Author: Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
Genre: Literary Fiction
I was stunned after reading The Revisioners. I still am. There were times I put down the book because I was scared of turning the page, wondering what will happen to characters I fell in love with, mainly the protagonists. This story is about two African-American women connected by blood, and divided by time. The story moves from 2017 to 1924, and also taking place in 1855. There is a lot going on in the book. It is a tale of generations, legacies, healing, motherhood, racism, prejudice, and old-age traditions.
The book starts in New Orleans in the year 2017, when Ava, a biracial mom and her teenage son King move in with Ava’s white, wealthy grandmother Martha. Ava becomes her caretaker, as she is recently laid off and could do with some money and rent-free accommodation. She does all of this so she can finally buy a place of her own after saving some money. Little does she know what’s in store for her and her son – Martha starts behaving erratically and things start to change.
Josephine, Ava’s ancestor’s story is set in 1924 when she is a free woman with her own plantation and house, alternating in the year 1855 when she was a young slave girl on the Wildwood plantation. Josephine befriends a white, lonely, younger woman Charlotte and an uneasy friendship is formed between the two. Josephine has learned the hard way and strived to find her voice and Charlotte has her own past to deal with. The question then is: Can a black woman and a white woman ever be friends?
The power dynamics between the white and the marginalised black are neatly laid out. Sexton speaks up and makes you realize with every scene and conversation about the privilege, the distance, and the promise and audacity of hope between the white and black women as their paths cross. Sexton’s writing is raw and grabs you from the first page. And might I add that it is not a slave narrative. It is about hope, courage, and how to stand your own ground when it comes to identity and the connections of ancestry. It is about how two black women a century apart experience racism, and how things perhaps haven’t changed all that much. The stories of Ava and Josephine are ground in reality, though sometimes they take on a mythical quality, lending them the magic realism tone.
The Revisioners is a book that is needed. It is needed for people to not only check privilege but also make an effort to reduce gaps, to cross bridges, and examine their relationships with people around them. It is a reminder of blood relationships and also relationships that go beyond blood, and expand into a community, and last forever.