Friday, May 13, 2011

Book Review: I See the Rhythm of Gospel

(Note: This was first posted earlier this week. Blogger seems to have eaten it, so I'm posting it again)

I See the Rhythm of Gospel is a richly textured tale of the African American experience over a 500+ year period, told through art, poetry, and song. Beginning with life in Africa, through the journey of slave ships and plantations, escape and emancipation, the community of church and the language of song, this story weaves Gospel - both the music of hope and strength, and the work of God to liberate people from darkness - throughout the long struggle faced by African Americans. It deals artistically, yet realistically, with the pain of slavery and the civil rights struggles of the 50s and 60s. I See the Rhythm confronts and laments the deep abyss of pain left over from centuries of abuse, and yet is ultimately a story of hope, that this people found a way to survive, to thrive, to overcome (a journey which sadly is still not complete). And the role of the Church, and gospel music in particular, can't be overstated in that work to overcome.

Many famous names are here - Mahalia Jackson, Thomas Dorsey, Shirley Caesar, Andrae Crouch - as are the old gospel quartets - the Soul Stirrers, the Dixie Hummingbirds. Along with the musicians are others we know of, from Nelson Mandela to Rodney King, from Harriet Tubman to Toni Morrison. More importantly, however, are probably the millions of nameless people whose faces have been lost to history. The ones who struggled and died, the ones who marched and sang, the ones who simply put food on the table for their children. These are the ones honored by artist Michelle Wood in the beautiful, colorful, profound artwork that graces these pages.

I was touched by the dignity and hope pervading these pages; I was educated about pieces of African American history I hadn't yet heard. This is a wonderful book for children and adults alike, and worthy reading by people of all ages as we all seek to understand our unique yet shared history.

A bonus CD is supplied with the book, containing five representative gospel songs, from the classic "Wade in the Water" by the Golden Gate Quartet, up through the Holy Hip-Hop of Cross Movement's "I Love You."

The music, along with the lyrical text and the lush, bright, powerful artwork, all combine to help us see the rhythm of gospel, and the way it has woven itself into the history of African Americans in the United States.

Special Thanks to Zondervan for Supplying a Complimentary Copy for the Purposes of This Review

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