Gloryland by Shelton Johnson

By Shelton Johnson

Born on Emancipation Day, 1863, to a sharecropping family members of African and Indian blood, Elijah Yancy by no means lived as a slave, yet his self-image as a loose individual is at warfare together with his atmosphere: Spartanburg, South Carolina, within the Reconstructed South. Exiled for his personal survival as undefined, Elijah walks west to the Nebraska plains and, like different rootless younger African-American males of that period, joins the U.S. Cavalry.

The trajectory of Elijah’s military profession parallels the nation’s imperial adventures within the past due 19th century: subduing local american citizens within the West and quelling uprising within the Philippines. Haunted by means of the terrors persevered by means of black american citizens and via his half in persecuting other folks of colour, Elijah is continued basically through visions, stories, prayers, and his questing spirit—which finally reveals a house while his troop is published to protect the newly created Yosemite nationwide Park in 1903. the following, dwelling with little past mountain gentle, chilly rivers, campfires, and stars, he turns into a guy who owns himself thoroughly, whereas realizing he’s left items of himself scattered alongside his life’s course like pebbles on a creekbed.

Elijah's narrative voice—poetic, rhythmically cadenced, ranging freely via time—makes this novel a literary meditation on discovering a self and a religious domestic, whereas unveiling a little-known bankruptcy of America’s past.

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Born on Emancipation Day, 1863, to a sharecropping kinfolk of African and Indian blood, Elijah Yancy by no means lived as a slave, yet his self-image as a loose individual is at struggle together with his atmosphere: Spartanburg, South Carolina, within the Reconstructed South. Exiled for his personal survival as undefined, Elijah walks west to the Nebraska plains and, like different rootless younger African-American males of that period, joins the U.

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Example text

I could see my breath in the dim light of a moon that was half eaten. I picked up the old kerosene lamp sitting on the porch and fingered around on the ground for some matches that were usually somewhere round the lamp. Soon I was coaxing a little fire into the world between my hands. I walked off the porch quietly, not wanting to wake my parents or Grandma Sara. After taking maybe fifty steps, I reached the edge of the woods, my ankles and calves damp with dew. I stopped there and listened, but couldn’t hear anything but wind and night sounds, crickets and a great horned owl up high overhead on a branch, telling me over and over that I was a fool and to go to bed.

You gotta outlast the weight so you can rise like those fir trees rise when the snow has melted. All those colored people, my family and our neighbors, they were using Sundays like trees use the sun. Letting their burdens melt away under the heat of the deacon’s sermon, so they could walk out of that building taller than they walked in. Letting their roots tangle up with their neighbors’. Letting the wind of their singing carry their hearts home. Sundays weren’t about heaven at all, they were about learning how to be right here on this earth.

When I sleep, there’s freedom. I can be whatever I want to be and no one tells me anything different. I ain’t no sharecropper when I’m asleep. I don’t know what I am, but it’s got nothing to do with rice or sorghum or indigo or anything but the light of the sun rising over a place that never heard the word nigger. Maybe it’s cause I was born on Emancipation Day, maybe that’s why I am what I am. Born the day freedom was supposed to come. That’d change anybody. Maybe it’s cause my Grandma Sara is Seminole.

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