Monday, 2 December 2013

Kizzy Ann Stamps

Kizzy Ann Stamps by Jeri Watts (Walker Books)
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 9780763669768
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

It is 1963 and a historical era for African Americans. Prejudice and segregation is still rife, but Kizzy has been taught well by her family to treat all people equally and believe that one day, she will be treated as an equal. This is the premise of the story.

The only living thing that feels her and knows her completely is her border collie, Shag. The special bond between dog and human is one of the several moving and perhaps dominant sub-stories that are threaded into the happenings of Kizzy’s life and the era.

Kizzy Ann’s story is told in letters to her soon-to-be teacher at her new, integrated school. It continues via journal entries after all the class receives journals to record their work. This way we learn a lot about Kizzy’s life, her family and their moral codes. We also get an intimate look into white people’s attitudes and prejudices, but also their ability to accept change and evolve, especially in the face of kindness and compassion regardless of the colour from which these virtues come.

Jeri Watts has used her own life experiences to create characters that are totally convincing. This superbly crafted book is reminiscent of Alice Monroe’s magnificent character driven works. Watts has observed and listened to people just like Monroe had and has written about what’s imprinted in her memory and psyche.

Kizzy’s voice and emotions are captured and portrayed convincingly and with clarity. The beautiful language reflects the spiritual richness of the African American people and the moral laws they lived by. This is a book that will never leave my house. It will be frequently tasted, like a sweet that you can’t get enough of.

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