The Land
The Land

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Annotation: After the Civil War Paul, the son of a white father and a black mother, finds himself caught between the two worlds of colored folks and white folks as he pursues his dream of owning land of his own.
Catalog Number: #126876
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Publisher: Penguin
Copyright Date: 2016
Edition Date: 2016
Pages: 369 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-10-199756-7 Perma-Bound: 0-605-94974-3
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-10-199756-7 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-94974-4
Dewey: Fic
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Horn Book
Race complicates every relationship in young Paul Logan's life in this Reconstruction-era prequel to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. The son of a white land owner and his former slave, Paul comes to realize that to white folks he's "my daddy's colored son" and that black folks "think I think I'm better than they are." Taylor masterfully uses harsh historical realities to frame a powerful coming-of-age story that stands on its own merits.
Kirkus Reviews
"Some white men took care of their colored children; most didn't. My daddy was one who did." This is the central conflict of Paul-Edward Logan's life: his daddy and white brothers love him, but he can never be their equal. His parentage sets him apart from the "colored" population as well, until he is virtually isolated in a society almost totally defined by color. This sprawling tale explores the history of the Logan family and the consequences of the miscegenation that caused diarist Mary Chesnut to call slavery the "monstrous institution." Pride causes Paul-Edward to leave his father's land in Georgia and make his way with his best friend to Mississippi. It is here, of course, that he finds and struggles to buy the land that will sustain the Logan family for generations to come. Readers have come to expect Taylor ( The Well , 1995, etc.) to deliver a powerful story marked by defining moments that crystallize for the reader the unique cruelty of the post-Reconstruction South, and she continues to do so here. Paul-Edward encounters betrayal and brutality at every turn, from the brother who turns away as his white friends taunt Paul-Edward, to the lumber-camp boss who works him almost beyond endurance, to the landowner who reneges on a land deal. His narration has a tendency, however, to overexplain these events rather than letting them speak directly to the reader. This somewhat dilutes the power of the story; the narrator's mature distance from the events also saps the story of some of the immediacy found in other installments in the Logan saga. Still, readers who know the Logans will enjoy meeting the youthful avatars of familiar characters, especially the resolute Caroline—Cassie's Big Ma. Moreover, this is an aspect of the legacy of slavery not often confronted in children's books; Paul-Edward makes the reader feel its grotesque injustices. They will root for him, as they have for his children and grandchildren, to overcome. (author's note) (Fiction. 12 )
Publishers Weekly

Taylor's gift for combining history and storytelling are as evident here as in her other stories about the Logan family. This prequel to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry focuses on Cassie's grandfather, Paul-Edward Logan, and explains how the seeds were planted for feuds between the Logans and other families, as well as certain loyalties.

Here, the author deftly explores double standards in the South during the years following the Civil War. She lays the groundwork for these issues to be examined through two key relationships in the childhood of Paul-Edward, a boy of mixed race: the strong bond he shares with Robert, his white half-brother, and a tenuous friendship with Mitchell, whose parents were born into slavery and whose father works for Paul-Edward's father. Through them, the hero becomes painfully aware of the indelible line dividing black and white society. Though it is acceptable that his father, plantation-owner Edward, keeps an African-American mistress and helps rear her children, Paul-Edward and his sister, Cassie, are not allowed the same privileges as their half-brothers. An incident of family betrayal and a broken promise prompts Paul-Edward to run away from home and pursue his dream to farm his own piece of land. After arriving in Mississippi and setting his sights on the acreage he wants to buy, he soon discovers that becoming a landowner of color is more complicated and dangerous than he expected.

Like any good historian, Taylor extracts truth from past events without sugarcoating issues. Although her depiction of the 19th-century South is anything but pretty, her tone is more uplifting than bitter. Rather than dismissing hypocrisies, she digs beneath the surface of Paul-Edward's friends and foes, showing how their values have been shaped by social norms. Here, villains are as much victims as heroes, but only those as courageous as the protagonist challenge the traditions that promote inequality. Even during the book's most wrenching scenes, the determination, wisdom and resiliency—which become the legacy of the Logan family—will be strongly felt. Taylor fans should hasten to read this latest contribution to the Logan family history, and newcomers will eagerly lap this up and plunge into the author's other titles. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)

School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-In this prequel to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Dial, 1976), readers meet the relatives of the Logan family who lived during Civil War and Reconstruction times. Paul Edward is the son of a slave and her white master. He is treated well by his white half brothers and by his father, who teaches him to read and write. However, he and his sister learn that they are part of the white family in only certain respects. Early in his life, Paul is tormented for his mixed racial heritage by a black boy, Mitchell Thomas, who later becomes his best friend. The story follows these two young men as circumstances force them to run away from home and make their way in the world. Through hard work, the kindly help of a white employer, and sheer determination, Paul logs a tract of land that will supposedly be his. After much backbreaking labor, he is cheated out of it by the white owner. The plot takes several surprising twists as Paul and Mitchell fall in love with the same young woman, and tragedy lies in wait for them. The ugliness of racial hatred and bigotry is clearly demonstrated throughout the book. The characters are crisply drawn and believable, although at times Paul's total honesty, forthrightness, and devotion to hard work seem almost too good to be true. While this book gives insight and background to the family saga, it stands on its own merits. It is wonderful historical fiction about a shameful part of America's past. Its length and use of the vernacular will discourage casual readers, but those who stick with it will be richly rewarded. For fans of the other Logan books, it is not to be missed.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly

Taylor's gift for combining history and storytelling are as evident here as in her other stories about the Logan family. This prequel to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry focuses on Cassie's grandfather, Paul-Edward Logan, and explains how the seeds were planted for feuds between the Logans and other families, as well as certain loyalties.

Here, the author deftly explores double standards in the South during the years following the Civil War. She lays the groundwork for these issues to be examined through two key relationships in the childhood of Paul-Edward, a boy of mixed race: the strong bond he shares with Robert, his white half-brother, and a tenuous friendship with Mitchell, whose parents were born into slavery and whose father works for Paul-Edward's father. Through them, the hero becomes painfully aware of the indelible line dividing black and white society. Though it is acceptable that his father, plantation-owner Edward, keeps an African-American mistress and helps rear her children, Paul-Edward and his sister, Cassie, are not allowed the same privileges as their half-brothers. An incident of family betrayal and a broken promise prompts Paul-Edward to run away from home and pursue his dream to farm his own piece of land. After arriving in Mississippi and setting his sights on the acreage he wants to buy, he soon discovers that becoming a landowner of color is more complicated and dangerous than he expected.

Like any good historian, Taylor extracts truth from past events without sugarcoating issues. Although her depiction of the 19th-century South is anything but pretty, her tone is more uplifting than bitter. Rather than dismissing hypocrisies, she digs beneath the surface of Paul-Edward's friends and foes, showing how their values have been shaped by social norms. Here, villains are as much victims as heroes, but only those as courageous as the protagonist challenge the traditions that promote inequality. Even during the book's most wrenching scenes, the determination, wisdom and resiliency—which become the legacy of the Logan family—will be strongly felt. Taylor fans should hasten to read this latest contribution to the Logan family history, and newcomers will eagerly lap this up and plunge into the author's other titles. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)

Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Like Taylor's Newbery Medal book, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1976), this powerful historical novel, a prequel to Roll of Thunder, refuses to whitewash history. As the author notes in her afterword, the language was painful and life was painful for many African Americans, including her family. Drawing directly on her family history, especially what she knows about her great-grandfather, she goes back to the time of Reconstruction to tell a searing story of cruelty, racism, and betrayal. She also tells a thrilling coming-of-age story about friendship, hope, and family strength. Paul-Edward narrates it in his own voice, which combines a passionate immediacy with the distance of an adult looking back. There are things he can never forget. The story begins when he is nine years old in Georgia. Born of a part-Indian, part-African slave mother and a white plantation owner, he is raised by both parents. Paul is treated almost as if he were white. He eats at his white father's table--except when there are guests. He learns to read, and his best friend is his white brother, Robert, who is the same age. His greatest enemy is Mitchell, the son of black sharecroppers on the plantation, who beats Paul unmercifully (You think you way better n everybody else). Then Paul teaches Mitchell to read, and Mitchell teaches Paul to fight. Through Paul's personal turmoil, Taylor dramatizes society's rigid racist divisions. Paul's identity as a white nigger, caught between black and white, almost destroys him. A bitter turning point comes when Robert betrays him to save face with white friends. Taylor makes it plain that Paul never gets over it. Never. Paul learns another harsh lesson when he loses his temper and beats up a white bully: his father thrashes him to teach him an essential lesson for his survival: You don't ever hit a white man. . . . Use your head, Paul-Edward, not your fists. Losing his temper could get him lynched, and he doesn't forget, even when whites exploit him, insult him, cheat him, and injure him. His dream is to own his own land. It becomes his obsession. The second part of the book is about his work, backbreaking work for months and years to get that land. As a teenager, he finally runs away, and Mitchell runs with him. They meet up later, brothers now, family, Mitchell is more a brother to me than any of my blood. The bond between Paul and Mitchell is at the heart of the book, all the more moving because it begins with raging hostility. Paul falls in love with a strong, independent woman, whom he eventually marries. But his focus is on the land, working the land, his own land. It's rare to find detail about work and business in books for children. Paul's work is vividly described: he trains and races horses, and he makes money as a skilled carpenter. Then he signs a contract with a white landowner and works seven days a week, clearing the land, chopping the trees, hacking the branches, burning the brush, planting cotton--only to have the landowner tear up the contract (You think I care about a paper signed with a nigger?). That moment is like a lightning flash, illuminating the racist truth through Paul's bitter heartbreak. Yet, even then, Paul remains ruthlessly determined. He continues his backbreaking labor and quest for the land, obsessively calculating how much he needs and how he'll earn it. The banks refuse Paul credit. He sells his most precious possessions. Finally, with the help of Mitchell, he earns the money and, through a complicated financial transaction that involves a sympathetic white man and a surprise family inheritance, he buys the land of his dreams. The novel will make a great discussion book in American history classes dealing with black history; pioneer life; and the Reconstruction period, about which little has been written for this age group. Filled with details of how people work the land and build a home, what they eat and how they cook it, the book will appeal to teens who loved the Little House books (a series that also spoke to racism), and it could easily be paired with any number of stories about immigrants' struggles to follow their dreams in America. Taylor's characters are drawn without sentimentality. Not all whites are demonized; some whites help Paul. But many are vicious racists, like the farmers who don't want blacks owning land nearby. The n word hits like a blow each time it's used. But, as the author writes, that's what her grandfather endured. Let's hope that the historical truth, the words, and the violence don't cause adult censors to keep this landmark book from young adults who will want to read it and talk about it. Paul-Edward's granddaughter will be Cassie Logan, and readers who remember her from Roll of Thunder will grab this and be astonished by its powerful story.
Word Count: 118,345
Reading Level: 5.0
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.0 / points: 18.0 / quiz: 54637 / grade: Middle Grades
Guided Reading Level: Z
Fountas & Pinnell: Z
Mitchell

I loved my daddy. I loved my brothers too. But in the end it was Mitchell Thomas and I who were most like brothers, with a bond that couldn't be broken. The two of us came into Mississippi together by way of East Texas, and that was when we were still boys, long after we had come to our understanding of each other. Seeing that we were a long way from our Georgia home and both of us being strangers here in Mississippi, the two of us depended on each other and became as family.

But it wasn't always that way.

In the beginning the two of us didn't get along at all. Fact to business, there was a time it seemed like to me Mitchell Thomas lived just to taunt me. There were other boys too who picked on me, but Mitchell was the worst. I recall one time in particular when I was about nine or so and I was reading beside a creek on my daddy's land, and Mitchell came up from behind me and just whopped me on the head. For no reason. Just whopped me on the head! Course I jumped up mad. "What ya do that for?" I cried.

"Felt like it," he said. That's all; he felt like it. "Ya wanna do somethin' 'bout it?"

But I said nothing. Sure, I wanted to do something about it, all right, but I was no fool. Besides the fact I was a small-built boy, Mitchell was a year and some months older than me, a big boy too, stronger than most boys his age, and he could've broken me in two if he'd had the mind. Mitchell stared at me and I stared at him, then he turned and walked away. He didn't laugh, he didn't gloat; he just walked away, but I knew he'd be back.

And he was. Time and time again.

At first I just tried to stay out of Mitchell's way, but that didn't solve the problem. So I went to my sister, Cassie, about Mitchell. Now, my sister was a beautiful girl and I knew even Mitchell had eyes for her. But Cassie was not only beautiful, she was tough, smart, and just a bit cocky. She was six years older than I was and pretty much like a mother hen when it came to me; I knew she'd take my part. "Cassie, you know 'bout Mitchell?" I asked her.

"Course I know about Mitchell," she answered. "Why're you letting him beat up on you?"

"I'm not letting him!" I exclaimed in outrage. "You thinking I'm liking him beating up on me?"

"Well, if you're not, you'd better make him stop."

"Well, I'm trying."

"Well, you'd better try harder."

"I've tried fighting back, but he's too strong. Thing is, I don't know how to stop him."

"You'd better figure a way," she said matter-of-factly, then looked me in the eyes. "You want me to talk to him?"

I didn't even need to think on that. "Naw, course not! You did, then they'd all be saying I had my sister fighting my battles!"

Cassie shrugged. "Then you'd better figure something out quick."

Well, I didn't figure anything out quick enough before Mitchell whalloped me again. And again. Finally things got so bad, I told my daddy about Mitchell and about how he and other boys too were always picking on me. Now, the thing was, Mitchell and his family and the other boys lived on my daddy's land, and I figured my daddy with one word could put a stop to Mitchell and the rest. But my daddy said, "What you expect me to do about it?"

"I don't know," I replied, even though I knew exactly what I wanted him to do about it.

"You expect me to stop this boy Mitchell and the others from messing with you?"

I didn't say anything.

"You want it stopped, Paul," he said, "then you stop it. This here is between you and Mitchell and whatever other boys. I'm not getting into it."

My daddy was true to his word too. More than one time he saw me with a busted lip or a bruised eye, but he showed me no sympathy. He just looked at me and said, "See you didn't stop it yet." After a while, though, he said, "Paul, you don't stop this soon, those boys are going to kill you."

"Well, they're bigger and stronger'n me!" I protested.

"Then you use what you strongest at, boy! You use your head. Now take care of it."

I took care of it, all right. I enlisted the aid of my brothers, Hammond, George, and Robert. I figured Hammond and George could sure enough stop Mitchell. Course, they already knew of my troubles. They'd seen my busted lip and bruises too, but they had been away at school during most of the time Mitchell had been beating on me, and I hadn't been able to turn to them for my rescue. Robert, of course, had wanted to help me out, but there hadn't been much he could do. He was as small as I was. Now Hammond and George were back home and I figured to settle this thing.

"So what do you want us to do?" Hammond asked.

I was looking for complete and absolute revenge, and I figured Hammond at eighteen and George at sixteen could provide that for me. "Put the fear of God into 'em!" I declared.

Hammond smiled; so did George. Robert, though, nodded solemnly. "We can do that." Robert was nine, same age as me. Of my brothers, I was closest with Robert. I suppose, in part, being the same year's children made us close, but there were other things too. We had been together practically since birth, and we always took care of each other. When I got into trouble, Robert was there to pull me out of it if he could, or at least to see me through it, and I did the same for him. More than one time when one of us would be getting a licking from either my mama or our daddy, the other would jump in to try to stop it and we'd both get whipped. We shared everything together. Back then, Robert was always on my side. "They got no business beating on you," Robert said, expressing my sentiments exactly.

"That's what I figure too," I said.

"We'll take care of 'em tomorrow," Robert promised.

"Now wait a minute," said Hammond. "I don't know if that's such a good idea."

"What's not good about it?" I asked. "Mitchell and those other boys been beating on me for the longest time, so y'all go beat on them awhile and they'll stop."

Hammond was quiet a moment, then said, "Well, I don't know if that's quite fair."

"Sounds fair to me."

"Me too," said Robert.

"But George and I are older than Mitchell and those other boys, and we'd have the advantage," said Hammond.

"Well, that's the point of the thing!" I said.

Hammond shook his head. "'Sides that, they live here on our place, and if we get into it with them, it'll look like we're bullying them--"

"Well, they've been bullying me!"

George looked at me dead center. "You tell our daddy about this?" One thing I liked about my brother George was that he laid things right on the line; he said exactly what was on his mind. On the surface he was an easygoing sort of boy with a body that seemed to hang in a lazy fashion, such as always having one leg dangling over the arm of a chair when our daddy wasn't around. But the truth was, he had himself a fierce kind of temper when baited and a steely right hand to match. He had never used either against me. I always told him the truth. "I told him, all right," I replied in answer to his question.

"Well, what'd he say?"

I didn't speak right up.

"Well? I know he said something."

"He told me he wasn't getting into it. He told me to stop it, so that's what I'm trying to do."

George laughed. "Yeah, you trying to stop it, all right. You trying to get us to stop it for you."

"Same thing," said Robert. Those were my thoughts exactly.

"Look, Paul," said Hammond. "I'll have a talk with Mitchell, but I'm not going to go beating up on him for you. Understood?"

I looked at Hammond and nodded solemnly, but I was figuring the only thing Mitchell Thomas would ever understand was a good whipping.

That very next morning Robert and I, sitting behind Hammond and George on their bays, went over to the patch of ground Mitchell's family tended. Now, the Thomases, like all the other families who lived on my daddy's land, were sharecroppers, and because of that fact, they were obliged to take heed of whatever my daddy or my brothers said. Miz Thomas was sure enough taking heed right now.

"Edna," said Hammond as Mitchell's mother stood in her dark doorway, "where's Willie?" Willie Thomas was Mitchell's daddy. "He gone off already?'"

"Yes, suh," answered Miz Thomas. "He in the fields."

"Well, doesn't matter. We come to see Mitchell. He with his daddy?"

"Mitchell?" questioned Miz Thomas. "Well, suh, he's out in them woods yonder choppin' wood for the fire."Hammond nodded. "Whereabout?"

"North yonder...by the creek."

"All right," said Hammond. "We'll find him."

We turned to go, but then Miz Thomas said, "That Mitchell, he done somethin'? He in trouble?"

"We just want to talk to him, Edna," Hammond assured her. Still, though, as we rode away, I saw Miz Thomas frown, and young as I was, I knew she was worried. She was worried because my brothers had come. My brothers had come asking about Mitchell, and my brothers were white.

The Georgia sun was blazing by the time my brothers and I located Mitchell chopping wood on the north bank of the creek. Two of his younger brothers were with him, stacking the logs he split. As we dismounted, Mitchell struck his axe into a fallen log, then yanked it out again and held it across his chest. To tell the truth, I'd have preferred it if we had found him tending some other chore. I for one knew that Mitchell had a hot temper, and there was no telling what he might take a notion to do with that axe. Hammond, though, seemed to take no notice of the axe as he and George walked over to Mitchell. Robert and I stayed by the horses.

"See you got quite a woodpile there, Mitchell," said Hammond cordially.

Mitchell glanced over at me, then back at Hammond before he nodded. "Yeah," he said. His brothers were silent and still.

"Well, now, Mitchell," Hammond went on, "we rode over because we wanted to have a little talk with you."

"That's right," said George. "We understand that you been beating up on Paul there." I appreciated the fact that George was getting right to the heart of this matter. "Quite often, as a matter of fact."

Mitchell's grip tightened on the axe, but he said nothing.

"We'd like to know why," said Hammond.

I kept my eyes on the axe. I felt like I needed to warn Hammond and George. They didn't know how crazy Mitchell could be.

"We'd like to know why you have it in for Paul," Hammond went on. "Did he do something to you?"

Mitchell eyed his axe and didn't speak.

Hammond and George waited; then George grew impatient. "Well? Don't you have anything to say? Did Paul do something to you or not?" Mitchell kept on looking at that axe. "Speak up!"

Mitchell then shook his head. "Naw," he mumbled, but I could see his fingers tightening on the handle.

"Well, if Paul hasn't done anything to you," said Hammond, "then I see no reason for you to be continuously picking on him. You're older than him, bigger than him, and it's certainly not a fair kind of thing."

"We want it stopped," said George, as if that should put an end to the matter right there, and I thought, Good. Now we're getting to the point of this thing.

Hammond continued to be diplomatic. "We want you two to try to be friends, Mitchell. We're all living here on the same land, and we all have to work together, so I don't want to hear of any more fights between the two of you. Understood?"

Mitchell once again had nothing to say. George lost patience and grasped the handle of Mitchell's axe. "Boy, you better answer!" he demanded, but Mitchell in a dangerous move yanked on the axe. George too yanked on the axe in an attempt to twist it from Mitchell's grasp, but then Hammond intervened, stepping between George and Mitchell. George's hand slipped from the axe, but he still tried to get at Mitchell.

Hammond pushed him back. "Stop it, George!" he ordered. Then he turned to Mitchell. "Now, you, boy, you put that axe down." There was a moment when I didn't know if Mitchell would obey. Hammond didn't waver. "I said put it down! Now!" Mitchell looked at George, at Hammond, then slammed the axe into a log. Hammond stepped back calmly. "There's to be no more of that."

George shoved past Hammond and pointed his finger right in Mitchell's face. "You try that on me again and I'll have your head, boy! You hear me? You best be remembering I'm not Paul!"

I was afraid Mitchell was going to slap George's hand away and the two of them would get into it right there, but Mitchell only glared at George and kept his silence. Hammond eyed the both of them and said to Mitchell, "There's to be no more fighting with Paul."

Mitchell looked at the ground.

"Is that understood?"

Mitchell looked up, first at Hammond, then at me, and I felt my knees go weak. "Yeah," he mumbled, his eyes fixed on me, and at that moment I knew that my troubles with Mitchell were far from over.

And I was right.

The next time Mitchell Thomas caught up with me alone, he near to whipped the living daylights out of me. "Now, go tell your brothers 'bout this beatin', you white nigger!" he cried as he pummeled me. "For all I care, you can tell yo' white daddy 'bout it too!"

But after Mitchell got finished beating on me, I told no one. Instead, I made my way over to the creek and sat on its bank, looked out over my daddy's land, and pondered why Mitchell and the other boys hated me so. Now, what Mitchell said was true: I did have a white daddy. My daddy was Edward Logan, and Edward Logan was a much-respected man. He was a prosperous man too, or at least he had been before the war had come in 1861, and still now that the war was over by several years, he was doing better than most. He owned a lot of land, and until a few years back he had owned his share of slaves too.

My mama had been one of those slaves.

My mama was called by the name of Deborah, and she was equally of the African people and of the native people, the Indians, whom we called the Nation. She was a beautiful woman. My daddy took a liking to her soon after she came into her womanhood, and he took her for his colored woman, and that's how my older sister Cassie and I came to be. Cassie and I were our daddy's children, and both of us were born into slavery. Now, there were a lot of white men who fathered colored children in those days, even though the law said no white man could legally father a black child; that was in part so no child of color could inherit from his white daddy. Some white men took care of their colored children; most didn't. My daddy was one who did. Not only did he take care of Cassie and me, but he acknowledged that we were his, though it was quietly spoken, and he raised us as his, pretty much the same as his white children, and that's what made us different, what made me different.

I was a colored boy who looked almost white. Though I had a mixed look to me, upon first seeing me, most folks thought I was white, and for some folks, if they didn't know different, they kept thinking so. My hair was brown and straight and hung somewhat long most times, to my shoulders. Some called that the Indian look in me, and my mama liked that. My skin was what some folks call olive for some reason, and my features being what they were, people made their own judgments about who and what I was.

Because my daddy was who he was, I had some of the privileges of a white boy, privileges denied to Mitchell and other colored folks on the place. Cassie and I sat right alongside Hammond, George, and Robert at our daddy's table. We wore good clothes, and our daddy educated us. He'd taught us himself how to read and write and figure, even though when he taught Cassie, it was against the law at the time, and when he taught me, against what so many of his white neighbors held dear, he also made Hammond and George and Robert share their books and all their school learning with us. When he traveled on business around the community, he oftentimes took me with him, along with my brothers. Just by being with Edward Logan and a part of his world, I was receiving an education none of the other boys of color on the place were privy to. My daddy protected me, and I was treated almost as if I were white. Yes, I was different, all right, and that was a fact. I sat there by the creek thinking on that, and finally decided it was no wonder Mitchell Thomas couldn't stand the sight of me. I supposed if I'd been Mitchell, I wouldn't've liked me much either.

I remember Robert came along as I was sitting there dwelling on all this and wanted to know what had happened. "What you think?" I said.

"Mitchell?"

"Mitchell."

Robert heaved a sigh and sat down beside me. "Looks bad."

"Feels worse."

"Why'd he do it this time?"

I looked at Robert. Though I'd figured it out, I wasn't ready to talk about it. "Same as always," I said. "He just doesn't like me."

Robert nodded, and we said no more for a good long while. Robert threw rocks into the creek, letting me be, and if he figured I was holding something back, he didn't say so. Robert and I didn't need to talk; we were that close.

Some time passed; then Robert spoke again. "You want to fish awhile?"

I glanced over at the rock opening where we kept our poles and shook my head. "Don't feel like it."

"Wanna do anything?"

"Not really."

"You hurting?"

"What you think?"

"Want me to get Hammond and George?"

I shook my head.

"What you going to do?"

"Sit right here."

"Okay," said Robert. "I'll sit with you." He continued to throw his rocks. I continued to stare out at the creek, and we said no more.

After my realization about myself and how some folks saw me, I gave more serious thought on how to stop Mitchell from beating on me. Despite now having more understanding of Mitchell's dislike of me, I couldn't fully understand his hate. I didn't figure I'd ever done anything directly to Mitchell. My mama, though, figured different. She rubbed salve on my wounds and said, "You haven't done anything, huh? Well, how you think it make Mitchell feel for you to be sending Hammond and George to his house to speak to him and scaring his mama?"

"They didn't scare her!" I protested. "All they did was ask where Mitchell was!"

"That's all they had to do. They're white."

"They're my brothers," I reminded her.

"Uh-huh...white brothers, and you best remember that."

I was hardly about to forget it, what with my mama always reminding me of the fact, though in those early days it didn't seem important to me. Hammond, George, and Robert were simply my brothers, and my daddy was my daddy, and I got tired of my mama always reminding me different; but still I had to admit that there was something to what she said about me asking Hammond and George to talk to Mitchell, something that wasn't right. Mitchell had been born a slave on my daddy's land, and so had I. We had that much in common. My mama was right. I shouldn't have sent Hammond and George. I needed to settle this thing with Mitchell myself.



Once I came to that conclusion, to handle things myself, even when Hammond and George offered to help again, I said no. They had taken one look at me after Mitchell's last beating, and George said, "Looks like that talk we had with Mitchell didn't do much good."

"You want us to go talk to him again?" Hammond asked.

"Better still," said Robert, "this time we'll beat him up good for ya!"

"No," I replied. "You talk to him again or you whip him, he'll still come after me. I'll handle it my own self."

"Then least we'd better teach you how to fight better," said George.

"No," I said. "I've got it figured now. I'll be all right."

George laughed. "Hope you're right. We don't want to have to bury you."

Well, I didn't want them to have to bury me either. I had a plan, and all I could do was pray that it worked. That same day I went looking for Mitchell. When I found him, he seemed surprised to see me. He looked around. "Well, where they at?" he said.

"Who?" I asked.

"Your brothers. Ain't 'spected you to be out walkin' round without 'em."

"Well, I am. I come looking for you."

"What for? To get yo'self another whippin'?"

"To ask you something."

"And what's that?"

"I wanna know exactly how come you don't like me. I mean, I got some of your reasons figured, but far as I can tell, I never done anything to you."

Mitchell shrugged. "Just don't like you."

"Just don't?" I questioned.

He looked at me square and said matter-of-factly, "I got no use for white niggers."

I thought on that for a moment. I hated that word nigger, but I wasn't about to lecture Mitchell concerning it right now. Instead, I said, "I wasn't so white-looking, would you like me?"

"No."

"Why not?

"'Cause you think you way better'n everybody else."

"Now, what makes you think I think that? You inside my head?"

"You know how come," Mitchell retorted.

"Just 'cause my daddy's white and he owns this place?" I asked. "Well, I didn't have a say about who my daddy is, and I didn't have a say about my looking white. It's just who I am." I dismissed all that with a shrug and hoped Mitchell would do the same. "What else makes you think I feel like I'm better?"

"You so smart, you go on figure it out," said Mitchell, having now said more to me than ever before without having started to pound on me.

I thought on what he said before I spoke again. "You know, Mitchell, you way stronger'n me, and 'cause you are, there're a whole lotta things you can do I can't. But there're some things I can do and you can't, like read and write and figure. Maybe you think I feel better'n everybody else 'cause I can do those things and you can't, so I was thinking: What if I taught you to read and write and figure? Then you'd pretty much know what I know and there wouldn't be any reason for you to think I'm thinking I'm so smart."

Mitchell scowled. "What I want t' read and write and figure for?"

"'Cause it's something worth knowing," I reasoned, "and 'cause most white folks don't want us knowing how, 'cause once we do know, we can learn all sorts of things white folks know. You ever think why it is most white folks don't want us to know how to read and write and figure? My daddy says it's 'cause they need us as workers and so they don't want us knowing much as they do. Long as they figure they know something we don't, they can figure they're smarter than us."

Mitchell thought on that. "Ain't you afraid of them night riders comin' to get you, you go tryin' to teach me how to do them things?" he asked dryly.

Now, the night riders were white folks who dressed up in sheets and such and rode around threatening colored folks and white folks too who started up schools for colored folks and taught colored folks anything other than what they figured colored folks needed to know. The night riders were certainly to be feared, but I wasn't worried about them, and I knew Mitchell really wasn't either. Neither of us had ever seen them and after all, this teaching thing would be just between Mitchell and me. I shrugged. "No need for them to find out. I'm not opening any school, just teaching you."

"And what you 'spect me t' do for you?" he asked.

The truth was, all I expected from Mitchell Thomas was for him to stop beating up on me, but I was realizing now with those words that Mitchell was more than just a bully. There was a pride in him too, and there'd have to be an exchange of learning for this truce I was proposing to work. "You could teach me to fight," I said.

"Can't teach you to win," he returned.

"Well, that'd be up to me," I replied.

Mitchell took his time in making up his mind. "All right then," he finally agreed. "You teach me how t' read and write and figure, and I'll teach you how t' fight, but I wants ya t' know one thing."

"What's that?"

"I still don't like ya."

"Well, I don't like you either," I admitted quite truthfully.

He nodded, accepting my honesty, and the deal was struck. So that's how things began between Mitchell and me. After that, Mitchell and I held our truce. We didn't become friends, but at least he wasn't beating up on me anymore. I taught him and he taught me. He wasn't the best student, but then again I wasn't a great fighter either. I learned how to defend myself, and maybe just as important, once the other colored boys saw Mitchell and me together without Mitchell picking on me and bopping me upside the head, they pretty much backed off and left me alone. I don't know if at the time Mitchell was aware of it or not, but though he never declared himself as such, his presence alone made him my protector.

Excerpted from The Land by Mildred D. Taylor
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

A stunning repackage of a companion to Mildred D. Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, with cover art by two-time Caldecott Honor Award winner Kadir Nelson!

The son of a prosperous landowner and a former slave, Paul-Edward Logan is unlike any other boy he knows. His white father has acknowledged him and raised him openly-something unusual in post-Civil War Georgia. But as he grows into a man he learns that life for someone like him is not easy. Black people distrust him because he looks white. White people discriminate against him when they learn of his black heritage. Even within his own family he faces betrayal and degradation. So at the age of fourteen, he sets out toward the only dream he has ever had: to find land every bit as good as his father's, and make it his own. Once again inspired by her own history, Ms. Taylor brings truth and power to the newest addition to the award-winning Logan family stories.


* "Readers...will grab this and be astonished by its powerful story."—Booklist, starred review

* "Taylor's gift for combining history and storytelling is as evident here as in her other stories about the Logan family."—Publishers Weekly, starred review


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