The year is 1932. Allise DeWitt is a well-educated white woman and the wife of a landowner. Maizee Colson is an uneducated Afro-American woman and a sharecropper's daughter, living and working on DeWitt farm. The two women who seem to have nothing in common actually have more than one may expect. For starters, they are connected via Quent, Allise's husband, who rapes and gets Maizee pregnant—unbeknown at the time to a very expectant Allise. As a result, Allise and Maizee give birth to his boys who are roughly the same age. Maizee longs to be respected as an individual. Yet to speak up will only bring more trouble to her and her family. While Allise's voice, too, is limited because she is a woman, her restrictions are only exacerbated when she reaches out to help her black neighbors and provides better housing for Maizee and her son. Southern Winds A' Changing chronicles Allise's tenacious fortitude toward equality and her amazing relationship with Maizee amid three decades of tumultuous racial tension.
Award winning author Elizabeth Carroll Foster provides a window into time periods that may still feel like yesteryear for baby boomers and older readers. Although the Great Depression seems ancient and World War II just another war, the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam are still vivid within the minds of those who lived to tell their own accounts. Zeroing in on a handful of clearly defined characters, Foster deftly captures the imagery associated with those and other historical markers that are a part of Allise's and Maizee's ever-changing world.
Allise and Maizee are undeniably dynamic characters. The two women have different backgrounds and experiences that slowly begin to overlap and often times merge as they share the same vision of equality. Foster's third person narrative is replete with their year-to-year trials and tribulations. And while the historical perspectives are nothing less than dismal, Foster periodically lightens her plot with comedic moments, such as Maizee's way of getting back at Quent by feigning that she has syphilis and then repeating her story to her family.
In addition to the aforementioned literary tools, Foster keeps her storyline always fresh and fluid by alternating character scenes from chapter to chapter, and by closing with cliffhangers. Many scenes reflect the subtle nuances of each historical event that carefully displays the intense conditions of the human heart, ranging from the extreme racial hatred of Quent and the Pure Pride (KKK) to the near Gandhian compassion exemplified in Allise. Yet while this is all taking place, Foster dexterously interweaves a continual flow of un-hackneyed twists and turns.
The key aspect of Foster's historical novel, however, is not in the many imperative literary skills that make her story so engaging. It is, in fact, an underlying theme that racial tension is not just an issue of the past—another historical marker entrapped in yet another history book. But rather it is a real attitude of the mind and a condition of the heart that has only evolved and still exists in each and every neighborhood on the face of this planet. A timely message, especially in light of the current events and related protests, Southern Winds A' Changing is undoubtedly a must read!
RECOMMENDED by the US Review