“If we know that the past also lies in the present, we understand that we are able to change the past by transforming the present.”
From Philadelphia to South Carolina I followed this Family saga. At each turn of the page a character would leap on my heart and turn it upside down whether for good or bad. There is Nana Selma. She is Rayne’s grandmother. Although dealing with the physical hardships of aging, the land remains uppermost in her mind. In her mind the land is the place where family can come whenever they need to retreat from the rat race in the big cities of the North. The land is to be their fortress. Each character, Jewel, Lillie, Jones, Bobo, King and all of the other characters, named and unnamed, are striving to survive life. . The hostile and sometimes brutal past is a part of a family’s daily present. There are murders, beatings, raging fires and the ugly mad man lynching treated as a sport to act out hatred. Also, there is the need to fall back on “passing” even if the shame causes denial. There is interracial marriage. Whatever happens historically or in the present community is as real as the voice from the silent past. For example, there is Claude McKay’s poem.
“If we must die, O let us nobly die, So that our precious blood may not be shed In vain; then even the monsters we defy Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!”
However, through all the ups and downs there is unconditional love cycling back and forth to cleanse and forgive the ugly sinful pass. Thank goodness because Khalil is in need of this restoration. He is one of the next generation. He is Jewel’s little boy. He is loved deeply by Jewel’s Rayne, although Khalil is not his biological son. Nana Selma sees Khalil as her biological grandson. She nicknames him and makes him feel at home while he is down south far from his Philly home. Nana Selma gives Khalil nicknames: Muffin Man, Cornbread, etc. Giving a nickname is Nana Selma’s way of gathering Khalil into her fold. He has been adopted. He is an heir. She is his shepherdess. Khalil is a symbol of hope for the innocent. If he falls, there are so many loving arms to pick him up again.
There is Jewel. She is a brave mother and daughter unafraid to go back and find again whom she gave up. There is Rayne, her son. He chooses whether to give up the ghosts of the past and hear the voice in the present speaking like the music from a cello. He has never forgotten that voice.
“One time he had heard a cello concerto on the Temple University station….and the instrument had so reminded him of that voice that he had had to walk out.”
In IF SONS THEN HEIRS by LORENE CARY, the North and the South become characters. The land is punctured with emotions running hot and unstable very thirsty for rain water. It is the land which will broaden and widen the dimensions of each person. From the land comes the promise.
“On this land, they’d been talking, but not living, the spirit of adoption for generations: If son, then heirs.”