There are so many reads that seem timely right now in light of the Black Lives Matter movement and protest this summer. In fact, a whole plethora of Own Voices literature and nonfiction has been published over the last year that really speaks to racial justice and injustice. It’s possible this literature always existed, but my eyes just hadn’t been opened to it yet. This year, I find myself grabbing these books off my library shelf, loading them onto my Kindle, and absorbing the message within them.
Ring Shout was just this sort of read for me. A small, tightly-plotted, horror novel, Ring Shout deals with a fight against the Ku Klux Klan. The novel takes place in 1922, following a resurgence of the Klan brought about by a 1915 movie, The Birth of a Nation. (Note: The Birth of a Nation is actually a really movie and rebirthed the KKK, so Clark is weaving the historical into his fantasy/horror.)
These Klan members are full of hate and venom, but not all of them are human. Some are truly monsters, and it takes a special gift to be able to see these monsters for who they really are. Maryse and her band of resistance fighters are taking on the Klan and killing the Klu Kluxers, or monsters along the way.
However, there’s something these Klu Kluxers want from Maryse, some reason why they’ve spared her in a couple of situations where they could have killed her. Will she figure out their plan in time?
I noticed . . .
I noticed the timeliness of this book. It’s coming out in a time when a lot of people are primed and ready to think about the issues Clark raises. That seems like a really serendipitous time for publishing.
I also noticed that when it works, it really works. I found myself pondering when rage and a hunger for justice turns into hatred. I found myself thinking carefully about how different it is when someone who is enraged has power than when they don’t have any true power. I thought about how to keep anger from turning into rage and hatred. Righteous anger is a difficult line to tread, and I think Clark does a great job of exploring this theme in all its variations.
I wondered . . .
I wondered about the places where this novel did not work for me. Clark starts the story by dropping the reader into the middle of the action. There’s not much exposition given at any point during the story, and I was over halfway through the book before I really started to understand what was going on. I think this book would have been better if it weren’t so frantically paced. I needed a few more pages to help me understand this world and the characters so that I could connect with what was going on. The story itself really made no emotional impact on me, and I think it’s in large measure due to the action and confusing nature to the plotting.
This meant that a lot of the stuff that I wondered about was about the band of resistance fighters. I would have liked to have seen more of their backstories and their motivations. I would like to have understood better how they got close enough to the Klan to start seeing monsters.
It reminded me of . . .
For the musings on rage and hatred, this book actually reminded me of Esau McCaulley’s excellent work of theology, Reading While Black. He spends a lot of time pondering black rage and what a proper biblical expression and response to those feelings looks like. Reading that book was the first time I pondered black rage, and the themes of this novel paired well with that reading.
One excellent quote . . .
One of my favorite quotes on this book was one the possibility of choice. The plot of the book really surrounds whether or not Maryse will choose good or choose hate, and according to the book, the fate of the world is balanced on a sword, depending on her choice.
Here’s the quote:
Every choice we make is a new tomorrow. Whole worlds waiting to be born.
The fate of the world may not rest in our hands, but out lives and the lives of those in our community often do. We must all hope (and pray if we’re the praying kind) that when the time is right that we make the right decisions.