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Red Clay, Blood River by William Everett

Red Clay, Blood River

by William Everett

436 pages
Historical saga connects Trail of Tears and South African slavery

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Category: Fiction:Historical
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About the Book
The simultaneous events of America’s infamous Trail of Tears and South Africa’s momentous battles over control of the land of the Zulus in late 1838 trigger a historical saga that revolves around the lives of slaves, migrants, indigenous peoples, and exploitation of the land. The earth that binds our histories together in a rhythm not our own tells three intertwined stories culminating in these synchronous events. In their connection we enter a narrative of love and estrangement, of oppression and freedom, memory and reconciliation.

In the first story Valentine Trask, an immigrant from Germany, settles in the southern Appalachians and marries Nanye-hi, a Cherokee woman, becoming part of the people who were enough like the invading Europeans to have a printing press and own slaves but too different in the settlers’ eyes to be allowed to keep their land. They and their children, as well as their two slaves, are eventually caught up in the struggles of Indian Removal and forced onto the Trail of Tears, a journey that leads to the death of one-fourth of their number.

Valentine’s brother emigrates to Yorkshire in 1775. His son sails to South Africa, where his daughter Grace marries Fortius, a Dutch farmer. Grace and Fortius become part of “The Great Trek,” culminating in the Battle of Blood River, a deeply symbolic turning point in South African history later used to justify White domination of the land and its peoples.

In the third story Thembinkosi is seized in 1794 by slavers in southeast Africa, taken into service in Cape Town at the time of the first British occupation, and then sold to an American slaver, who takes her to Charleston, South Carolina, where she and her son Mzili are eventually bought by Valentine Trask.

These interconnected stories reverberate in the lives of three university students at the turn of the millennium who are caught up not only by their studies and their layered bonds to each other but also by the quest to claim the unknown pasts that mold their lives. In the tangle of their purposes and affections they begin to take their own paths toward reconciliation with themselves, the peoples who bore them, and the earth that sustains them.

In these stories we are invited to see our fractured human history from within the sensibilities of earth. In the dark chasms between students in the present and their forgotten ancestors we are led into the perspective of an earth that seeks the flourishing of all creatures and transcends their loves and deaths within its life.

 

 

About the Author
William Everett Everett is the author of eight books and numerous articles in social ethics and religion. His teaching career spans over thirty years in Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Boston as well as in Germany, India, and South Africa. He now lives, writes, and builds furniture in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina.

 

 

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