The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

The Good Lord Bird:
A Delight to Read!

Feb 17, 2014

The Good Lord Bird is a new novel by James McBride, a black author of historical fiction. It tells the story of the fight against slavery, leading up to the Civil War.

The narrator is a 12-year-old-child, liberated from slavery by abolitionist John Brown. He ends up traveling with Brown’s rag-tag band of fighters. The child humorously tunes out John Brown any time he starts his long-winded preaching of the Bible, but he sticks by John Brown none-the-less.

The child, “Onion,” is a whopper of a good story teller, but because of his lack of life experience, he often gets the wrong idea about what is going on right in front of him. The goofball humor of the narrator allows very serious topics to be explained, explored and digested by the reader.

The book is a wild adventure about the fight against slavery. Before you know it, the humor and the satire help you understand the common sense way ordinary people could decide it was time to risk their lives to fight slavery. Real people from the Underground Railroad, such as Harriet Tubman, come to life in this book.

Underneath the author’s Mark Twain-like humor lies a deep respect for John Brown and the fighters against slavery. As the novel progresses and the narrator grows up, the child learns to fight in ways that he never knew he had within him.

The book fleshes out John Brown, with his strengths and weaknesses, as well as giving human portrayals of other fighters against slavery—with both their heroism and their human foibles. If you stick with this book to its end, you will be glad you did.