“Remembrance” is a story of the remarkable strength, determination and magic involved in the survival of black women under the conditions of slavery. Rita Woods knows about strength and determination from her life as a former bodybuilder and her studies to become a medical doctor. “Remembrance,” her debut novel, speaks to the hidden powers that many slave women possessed and often did not realize until they were put into bondage. It also hints that magic men were put under the same circumstances but because the women were not recognized as having the same abilities as witch doctors, it made their capture and transplantation more common, as well as more tragic.
Rita Woods’ characters travel to a place of safety called Remembrance, which is on this earth, but like other legendary places such as Brigadoon or Shangri-La, it is populated by a host of individuals who cannot be seen going about their daily lives. Remembrance is shielded by the power of a single woman, who escaped from a life damaged by the cruelty, avarice and capriciousness of her masters. Discovering that she can bend perception, she decides to protect herself and others. Those who were brave enough to flee their plantations and fortunate enough to come within the proximity of Remembrance are taken in. Under her protection, Remembrance flourishes, becoming a community of people living full lives. It becomes an incubator for other women of power who possess similar skills.
Starting in current times with a hurricane survivor in Haiti working hard to adjust to new realities of daily life, she encounters an elder in the nursing home where she works, sending her through the lives of generations of women of power from Haiti just before the 1757 slave revolt to 1817 New Orleans through Ohio in 1857, and on, tumbling her into the history of these women of power. This Afro-Futurism neo-slave narrative adds depth to the genre propelled by Octavia Butler’s “Kindred” and complements what was recently embraced by Ta-Nehisi Coates for his debut novel “The Water Dancer.”
By Rita Woods
Forge Books, 416 pages
L. D. Barnes writes mystery, historical fiction and poetry. She is working on the second novel in her Chicago Street Crime series while living on the far south side. Barnes is a member of FLOW (For Love of Writing), Longwood Writers Guild and Mystery Writers of America. She performs locally.