Review: On Juneteenth

On Juneteenth On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part memoir, part history, and part cultural excavation, Gordon-Reeds' collective essays about both her personal history and the history of Texas through the lives of people from marginalized groups (Black people, women, Native Americans) end "on Juneteenth", the culmination of history, exile, and healing.  It's a powerful way to explain how Gordon-Reed balances both the big cultural idea of "Texas" in its own and in US history, coupled with her own fondness for the state while simultaneously recognizing how exclusionary it has been to her and other Black people.  The essays traverse from her experience growing up in a slowly and reluctantly (and legally mandated) desegregated school system to how childhood play of "Cowboys and Indians" replicated the U.S. and Texan culture about who were the true Texans and who were disposable.  In total, the essays are a contemplation about what it means to be Black in the US and also in Texas because for all its shortcomings, it is a state that Juneteenth arose from.  Hereto, the book would have readers walk away with some questioning of what is in a holiday and how do we connect with it both through our personal and social histories. For those wishing to better understand how holidays can be both joyous and challenging, one would be hard to do better than this book.

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