Thursday, July 03, 2008

History in Literature

As some of you may know, one of the books I taught while subbing this spring was Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. EXCELLENT book, although it is slow to develop and definitely has some strange. (Think of Morrison as a black female version of Tennessee Williams and you might have it. Srsly - Williams' "A Rose for Emily" is just about as fucked up as you can get.) I started out kinda horrified and annoyed at the book, but by the end I really loved it.
Anyway, it's your classic coming-of-age/search for identity & family history story, with the troubles of being a black male growing up 1930s-1960s. Takes place largely in Michigan - it's modeled after Detroit, although not explicitly stated as such. One of the fictionalized places mentioned is "Honore" - a kind of well-to-do playground for black folks, who couldn't go many places - it being the Jim Crow era and all.
Look what I found today on the Trib [,0,7855102.story?page=1 ]:  A Haven from Jim Crow: A Michigan resort town stirs anew with proud tales of its role since 1912 as a vacation spot for African-Americans.
"IDLEWILD, Mich — It's a 4 1/2 -hour drive to here from the South Side of Chicago—which, in the bad old days, could seem an eternity to families seeking a vacation from Jim Crow..."
"...It was founded in 1912 by four white couples who had a hunch there was a market for resort property among African-Americans, and bought 2,700 acres around the shores of Idlewild Lake, in north-central Michigan. Advertisements in the Chicago Defender newspaper offered lots for a dollar down and a dollar a month.

Among those who bought property was Daniel Hale Williams, a black physician in Chicago. He formed a partnership to build a lakeside hotel and restaurant in Idlewild. Anne Hawkins, a Chicagoan who summered in Idlewild for 82 years, recalls seeing Williams when he was old and she was young.

"When he was very ill, Dr. Williams would lie on the porch of his home here," Hawkins said. "To a child, he was just an old man, but my parents made sure I was aware of the contribution he had made." ***
I wonder if Morrison modeled Honore, and possibly a little of the character of Doctor Foster, after this place? Morrison knows her shit, historically speaking, so I wouldn't be surprised at all. I wish I had known about this earlier!
Hmm. Also, I wonder if Andre 3000's "Idlewild Blue" song has anything to do with this place? I LOVE REFERENCES!!!