Grisham Got In Our Grits

I had the pleasure of sharing in what educators call some “higher order thinking” type conversation the other day. It’s a monthly book club of ladies who meet in exquisitely furnished restaurants and discuss all things bookish. This was my first go around with the “Divas” and I scrambled to join because they were reading one of my fave writers, John Grisham.

Admittedly, John (we’re on a first name basis) had not written anything that caught my attention of late. Imagine my delight in finding that he brought back Jake Brigance of “A Time To Kill” fame for a second round. Sycamore Row, his latest venture into southern law and intrigue starts with a suicide and takes us on a pick up ride through the sweltering heat of Ford County, Mississippi. This story teller for the ages doesn’t disappoint as he brings back some old characters and hurls at us many new ones, unrepentant in his descriptive tale of the south, circa 1980’s.

There is a scene in the book where Lucien Wilbanks (picture a grisly Donald Sutherland) reprises his role as Jake’s pseudo-mentor. Back on the wagon and excited about this new case that Jake has, he proceeds to explain why having blacks on a jury to decide whether a black woman should gain the $20 million left to her by her white employer would be a bad idea. To paraphrase he says, “I know black folks more than any other white person in this county.” He stands his ground and maintains that everything is about race in Mississippi.

Grisham got real deep into the grits of the Black conscience. A black woman who stood to be the wealthiest woman in Ford County (black or white) would find no blacks in her corner. After all, they would still be poor and she would be living high off the hog.

The crab in the bucket mentality still rears it’s ugly head in small towns and big cities alike. Wherever there are black folks there will be envy and divide. How many times have I heard someone say, keep your business to yourself cause the haters out there are like vultures waiting to tear it down. I, in my naïveté, still think of people as essentially good for the most part until I see them cut a brother or sister down professionally or personally with no remorse.

In my own professional ventures, I have had a Polish Jew and a Cuban woman give me more support in moving towards goals than some Blacks I just thought would have my back. It is in my nature to share what I learn and know, friends remind me not everyone does the same. Lucien Wilbanks, in one a gloriously sober moment spoke some sense.

Yessiree, Grisham is back. Totally unapologetic about his tale of race relations in the South. He could have time stamped it 2014 rather than 1988 and would have still been in step with the times. Yes John, everything is about race everywhere.