The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

The Cutting Season:
Mystery AND History

Feb 3, 2014

The Cutting Season, written by Attica Locke, is a modern-day mystery, unraveling the murder of an immigrant worker from Mexico whose body is found near a sugarcane field in Louisiana.

The story unfolds at a tourist attraction: A fully restored slave plantation called Belle Vie, that hosts school history tours and banquets.

The author explained in a recent interview that the novel was inspired by a real place, the Oak Valley Plantation, just outside New Orleans. Attica Locke attended a wedding reception at this restored plantation in 2004. “There is no way to not feel the beauty of it because it is so stunning. But it also kind of made my stomach turn, because of what it represented.”

The author takes on the ways that history intrudes on today. The book draws parallels between the original slave labor that created wealth by harvesting sugarcane and the wage slavery of today. The book describes who does this work today: “Mexican mostly, and some Guatemalans, plucked out of rice fields and fruit groves for a few months of working Louisiana sugarcane.”

The impact of the past is felt on the present. The book’s main character, Caren Gray, has ancestors who were slaves at the very plantation she now manages. Young people who work at Belle Vie perform historical re-enactments of plantation life. An enjoyable sub-plot of the book is when these young people rebel and re-write the script, throwing out the sugar-coated history they had been required to perform.

Available in paperback, audio book, e-book and at the library, this “page-turner” of a murder mystery illuminates today’s racism and class society by linking “today” with history.