Americus, a first novel by Michael Datcher, is a compelling story told on two levels—the first is the story of a black family at the turn of the century that struggles to find and hold a place in society, and come to grips with dealing with each other, while the second is a gripping narrative of race relations in America at the early part of the 20th century.
The main story is about twins, Set and Asara Americus, born seven minutes apart, who both try to win the love and respect of their demanding and hypercritical father, Keb. Part of East St. Louis, Illinois’ black upper class, they experience the trauma of growing up in a family where the demands on them would weigh down the strongest person, alongside the even greater trauma of living in a society where their position is determined more by their skin color than their family’s wealth.
Datcher takes us through their lives from the time of their 10th birthday in 1893, through the turbulence of race riots provoked by the mass migration of blacks from the segregated south to the north where they seek jobs and dignity. In the wake of recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, this is a book that digs beneath the slogans and sound bites and takes the reader into the psyches of people who have to endure stereotyping and the constant struggle to live the American dream that for all too many is in reality a nightmare.
You’ll come away from this book with the view that #AllLivesMatter in the end. I give Datcher five stars for his first effort.