Weight of Light
Author: Sandria Rodriguez
Why were some born slaves and others free? Why were some treated as cattle and animals and others adorned with the finest things in life? Why did the color of your skin or your race and creed make a difference in what liberties you were afforded or not afforded? Just why was the world so prejudice against those born with a different color skin other than white? Why were some treated better than others? Why were people allowed to buy and sell children, adults and horses at the same time? Why did we allow slavery to exist?
This is the story of three courageous women. Three different stories yet in many ways the same. Each undergoing abuse, hardship and mistreatment at the hand of others without any remorse for their actions. This is the story of Emma, Justice and Bess. Hear their voices, read their words and understand their lives. Three women whose lives intertwined and how you will learn and why you will understand. Each one wanting one thing: FREEDOM!
Born to a slave mother, Emma started life on the wrong side of happiness. As she grew up she worked for the man’s wife who had bought her mother in a card game. Fortunately, for Emma, Mrs. Tucker was a kind and wonderful person who taught her much about life. Tom Tucker was a lazy, slob. Mean, ill tempered and only concerned with his own needs and not those of others.
Breeding horses and dogs that come from a superior stock is not unheard of or wrong. When both parties, who own the horses agree or the dogs that is one thing but to do the same thing and concept to breed human slaves that would be of a stronger stock and able to work the land, fields and do household chores, is deplorable, yet done. Emma was a strong young girl and Tom Tucker decided to take advantage of her innocence one night. Thinking his wife was tucked away he approached Emma and the end result was quite painful- Tom. But, Emma is no one to be trifled with and early on you find out that she and Mrs. Tucker know how to take matters in hand when Tom finds himself not exactly in a position to bargain as Emma takes action and Mrs. Tucker finishes the job. Needing her own brand of surgery to remove the needled stuck in his rump, and ignoring his loud screams, Emma and Mrs. Tucker exile this man to a small room.
Emma grew to care for Mrs. Tucker and had Tom’s baby boy. But, Tom was only concerned about the end result, which was money and himself. So, when Mrs. Tucker died, he sold both her child and Emma and made out quite well. Never realizing that his wife, had made a deal with the bank President and the end result would send him reeling. But, the loser was Emma and Sammy her child not anyone else. As her new master informed her as long as she could breed healthy children she would keep her son, named Sammy the Runt. The minute she could not she would lose more than just him. Giving birth to several children and having them sold to other masters was painful for Emma. But, the straw that broke the camel’s back was when her master took her son and daughter away from her and she knew it was time to rebel. And she did! Emma escaped with her youngest daughter only to find herself not able to take her with her on the entire journey. Leaving her with slaves that she met on the way, she hoped things would be better for her child and that she would finally be free.
As Emma finally experiences the taste of freedom, meets Silas along the way a slave that saves her and protects her, life finally begins for her. Reynolds’s Sutton, his master takes her in, protects her and when things come to a head and the sheriff tracks her down what happens will surprise the reader, create hope for Emma’s future and let you know that all slave owners are not the same. As Emma’s life takes on a positive light, she learns from Silas’s granny how to care for the sick; use herbs and other methods to bring them back to health and saves one family from death. As they leave she prays for their safety, their survival and you hear her inner most thoughts as she looks to the Lord for answers and for guidance.
As the years progress she finally realizes and hopes for another child to raise. Her freedom and Silas’s bought and given and their life together finally starting was two free black people. “I am a person, aren’t I,” she states. You are the beacon for the black slaves, the inspiration for everyone to keep the faith. She is smart, aware of who she is and what she wants, filled with courage and definitely brave as she gives all that she has to help others. This is where her story breaks and we need Justice and her father Elijah. How these two women and their lives intertwine remains to be seen.
Justice when we meet her is 12 years old and living with her father who seems unwilling to give life a chance since losing his wife Hannah three years before. Under his wing and not allowed to really enjoy the flowers and beauty in life, Justice spends her days working in the fields and just existing. Even two young girls fighting over Elijah does not impress him and the community who came to his aid has given up on him. But, the one who suffered at his hand the most was Justice. Trusting a stranger proved harmful to Justice when one young man took advantage of her innocence and kind ways resulting in her becoming pregnant. When her father realized the reason for the bulge in her stomach his reaction was anything but rationale as the end result was catastrophic for Justice leading her to Emma’s home to be cared for and tended to with the help of her son Mint who immediately took to Justice. Justice flourished under Emma’s guidance and learned much about life, people, sewing, cooking and much more. She learned the meaning of love and understanding and grew to care for not only Emma but Mint too.
Next, we meet Bess whose life was almost snuffed out before it began. When her parents could not hold her underwater and take away her chance to live, instead they gave her away. Justice and Mint took in Bess and here is where her story begins. Given away by her parents because of her heritage and being part Indian and part Black, Bess started life without the love and nurturing every child deserves and needs. At four her mother, Mary, gave her to Mint and Justice to raise. Bess took to Mint in a heartbeat and never accepted Justice no matter how hard she tried and how hard she tried to push aside her prejudices against this child, they never really became mother and daughter. As Bess grew and become more outspoken and headstrong, she left home, married a man named Tommy and returned to her parent’s home with one child and another on the way. But, Tommy proved to be abusive, cruel in his words and often beat Bess. With so many children to feed and needing a roof over their heads, she had no choice but to deal with his wandering ways and drunken stupors. But, no one should take what she did. No one should allow anyone to treat him or her as if they were their slaves as he did. As the years grew long and both Mint and Justice passed, you could hear their voices coming through loud and clear, as they talked about their life together, the way they felt about each other and how they both were so blessed to have each other. As Justice states so loud and clear to Mint: “ Everything about you speak to my heart.” Never abusive always kind and caring from the start why did her family and their children settle for anything less.
As Bess and Tommy’s family grew her love for him disappeared. Meeting Mrs. Mabel Haskins would change a lot for her and her family and the ending of her journey will tie it all together for the reader. Six children, one dying due to an accident, one man who stole, lied and cheated her out of her youth, her life and happiness, Bess’s legacy will be told and received and passed on to those she loved in a very special way.
Freedom is not always what you think. Bess and Justice were not born as slaves but were they really ever free. Bess tied to Tommy treated as if she was his own personal property even though he had not paid for her or bought her from a slave owner. His children, what would become of them? Would they follow in his footsteps? Would his daughters do better? Three women all bound together. Emma, Justice’s guiding light, mother –in- law, inspiration and friend. Justice, trying to care for Bess even though she never would accept her. Bess, just wanting to do right for her kids and having to try and find her own way in this world that was right for her. Freedom: Truth is Light! Love Is Ligtht. The Weight of Light: Freedom is everyone’s right: the way we each perceive and get it sometimes harder and a bigger burden than we think. Freedom is the Light. Told with such passion, feeling that you experience the events along with the characters, the author brings back a time that many have forgotten as slavery really happened, prejudice still needs to be eliminated and freedom is everyone’s right. Working wherever you want should not be contingent on the color of your skin.
One novel that brings to light the wrongs done to black people, the prejudices of so many and the unfair and cruelty that many women put up with at the hand of their men. Not just black men, but white men were no better. Abuse is wrong. Cruelty is wrong. Children are special and need to be cherished. What one mother did to free herself of the heavy burden of caring for her child comes full circle at the end of this thought provoking, outstanding and very important novel that I feel everyone needs to read.
Emma, Justice and Bess: You are the Light !
Fran Lewis: Reviewer