The Wind Done Gone

The Wind Done Gone

2.6 45
by Alice Randall

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In a brilliant rejoinder and an inspired act of literary invention, Alice Randall explodes the world created in Margaret Mitchell’s famous 1936 novel, the work that more than any other has defined our image of the antebellum South. Imagine simply that the black characters peopling that world were completely different, not egregious, one-dimensional

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In a brilliant rejoinder and an inspired act of literary invention, Alice Randall explodes the world created in Margaret Mitchell’s famous 1936 novel, the work that more than any other has defined our image of the antebellum South. Imagine simply that the black characters peopling that world were completely different, not egregious, one-dimensional stereotypes but fully alive, complex human beings. And then imagine, quite plausibly, that at the center of this world moves an illegitimate mulatto woman, and that this woman, Cynara, Cinnamon, or Cindy—beautiful and brown—gets to tell her story.
Cindy is born into a world in which she is unacknowledged by her plantation-owning father and passed over by her mother in favor of her white charges. Sold off like so much used furniture, she eventually makes her way back to Atlanta to take up with a prominent white businessman, only to leave him for an aspiring politician of her own color. Moving from the Deep South to the exhilarating freedom of Reconstruction Washington, with its thriving black citizenry of statesmen, professionals, and strivers of every persuasion, Cindy experiences firsthand the promise of the new era at its dizzying peak, just before it begins to slip away.
Alluding to events in Mitchell’s novel but ingeniously and ironically transforming them, THE WIND DONE GONE is an exquisitely written, emotionally complex story of a strong, resourceful black woman breaking away from the damaging world of the Old South to emerge into her own, a person capable of not only receiving but giving love, as daughter, lover, and mother. A passionate love story, a wrenching portrait of a tangled mother-daughter relationship, and a book that gives a voice to those history has silenced, THE WIND DONE GONE is an elegant literary achievement of significant political force and a novel whose time has finally come.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Think of Margaret Mitchell's epic Gone with the Wind condensed and told from the perspectives of Mammy and the Tara slaves, and you have Randall's debut novel. This sometimes cryptic but always fascinating story is narrated by Cynara (also Cinnamon or Cindi), the daughter of a slave and a white plantation owner. As the story unfolds, we learn of Cynara's hatred of the white half-sister she calls Other and the privileges bestowed upon Other yet denied Cynara even though they are raised side by side. Both sisters vie for the attentions of Mammy (Cynara's mother and Other's nanny) as children, and for the love of the same man as adults. Through the eyes of Cynara and the other now freed slaves, we get unique perspectives of life on a Southern plantation and of the Reconstruction era. Randall, an established country songwriter, uses language and idiom to haunting and poetic effect. Fans of Toni Morrison's Beloved will enjoy this well-written historical fiction. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/01; a trust for Margaret Mitchell's heirs has filed an injunction to stop this book's publication as a violation of copyright. Ed.] Karen Traynor, Sullivan Free Lib., Chittenango, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Songwriter Randall's audacious, highly controversial (the Margaret Mitchell estate is not amused) debut retells Gone With the Wind from the point of view of Scarlett O'Hara's mulatto half-sister. Like many a slave child, Cynara was born out of wedlock, fathered by "Planter," the white man who owned her mother. She grew up in relatively protected circumstances, able to read and write (unlike her Mammy), her life holding an off-center mirror to the experiences of her famously headstrong white half-sister, here known only as "Other." Cynara's sly sketches of Dreamy Gentleman (Ashley Wilkes), Miss Mealy Mouth (the irritatingly saintlike Melanie), and a host of other supporting characters from the original enliven this pseudo-memoir. Cynara and R. (Rhett Butler) become lovers—what Other doesn't know won't hurt her, Cynara reasons. R. turns to her in secret when his beloved little daughter dies, but he refuses to give her the child of her own she yearns for. Openly his mistress after Emancipation, Cynara travels to Europe and throughout the South, meeting Frederick Douglass, colored congressmen, and other dignitaries of the new black elite, although she discovers that the mulatto mistresses of Confederate aristocracy have little standing in Negro society. The real story here, however, is the parallel lives of the sisters, whose fates are forever entwined. Cynara offers a shrewd assessment of her white Other, who "has the vitality, vigor, and the pragmatism of a slave, and into this water you stir as much refinement as you can without leaving any grains of sugar at the bottom of the glass. She was a slave in a white woman's body, and that's a sweet drink of cold water." But Cynara, aremarkable woman in her own right, outshines her on every page. Randall's vivid prose skillfully captures the color of a mind, which is something much subtler than skin shades of brown or black or white. Sure to outrage a few diehard traditionalists—and entertain everyone else.

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Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
. Series
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.56(d)

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Today is the anniversary of my birth. I have twenty-eight years. This diary and the pen I am writing with are the best gifts I got—except maybe my cake. R. gave me the diary, the pen, and the white frosted tiers. He also gave me emerald earbobs. I think maybe my emeralds are just green glass; I hope maybe they be genuine peridots.
I was born May 25, 1845, at half-past seven in the morning into slavery on a cotton farm a day’s ride from Atlanta. My father, Planter, was the master of the place; my mother was the Mammy. My half-sister, Other, was the belle of five counties. She was not beautiful, but men seldom recognized this, caught up in the cloud of commotion and scent in which she moved. R. certainly didn’t; he married her. But then again, he just left her. Maybe that means something to me. Maybe he’s just the unseldom one who do recognize.


If I strip the flesh off my bones, like they stripped the clothes off my flesh in the slave market down near the battery in Charleston, this would be my skeleton: childhood on a cotton farm; a time of shawl-fetch slavery away in Charleston; a bare-breasted hour on an auction block; drudge slavery as a maid in Beauty’s Atlanta brothel, when Milledgeville was the capital of Georgia and Atlanta was nothing; a season of candle-flame concubinage in the attic of that house; a watery Grand Tour of Europe; and, finally, concubinage in my own white clapboard home, with green shutters and gaslights, in the center (near the train depot) of a fast-growing city that has become the capital of Georgia, concubinage that persists till now. How many miles have I traveled to come back to here?


They called me Cinnamon because I was skinny as a stick and brown. But my name is Cynara. Now when I tell it, I say they called me Cinnamon because I was sweet and spicy. Sweet, hot, strong, and black—like a good cup of coffee. Leastways, that’s how Planter liked his coffee.
Planter used to say I was his cinnamon and Mammy was his coffee.
He said those words a day I had gotten into trouble dashing before Other upon the stained-glass colored light that fell in rows of blue and pink diamonds down the wide hall of the big house. If I was ten years old, it must have been 1855. I bumped into the leg of the Hewitt sideboard. Other was ten years old too. It was one of those days we had back when everything seemed it would always be just as it has always been. Everything and everyone had a place and rested deep in it, or so it seemed that day to would-be knights and ten-year- olds. Then I bumped into that carved leg, and the shell-shaped bonbon dish jumped off Lady’s sideboard as if it just wanted to split into a hundred porcelain shards on the lemon-oiled pine floor. Something had changed, and I had changed it. Someone wanted to beat me. Mammy said she’d beat me good, with a belt. Other lied and said she’d knocked into the table. Said it ’cause she knew it would pain Mammy to give me a whipping.
And sometimes Planter said it when he heard me making up little rhymes to sing to myself. Sometimes when Mammy was putting Other to sleep on a day pallet for a nap, he would call for me to sit at his feet on the broad porch and sing my little songs to him. “Cindy, come sing, come sing! Ain’t you my Cinnamon and she my coffee?” he’d ask. And I’d be slow to go, because I knew someone might be missing me.
On the day Planter told me I was leaving the place, I asked him what he had meant when he said that I was his cinnamon and she was his coffee. He said to me, “I mean a man can do without his cinnamon but he can’t do without his coffee.” I poked my lip out. “I mean you’re a gracious plenty.” “I belong here?” “Gracious plenty foreign to me child.” R. says Planter was an Irishman and all Irish are shiftless, lazy crackers, no matter how rich they get. He always wants me to look outside the neighborhood for models of my deportment. He often mentions that Georgia was once a penal colony. The first time he said it, I didn’t know what a “penal colony” was. He says only the English and the French know anything about gracious plenty. He says when Planter and Mammy got together, they cooked a broth too rich for potato-water blood.
It was Planter who sent me away, but he got the go-ahead from Mama. It was the year his third son died, and he said it would be a good turn for me. I was thirteen the day they rode me off. It was 1858.
Mammy was my Mama. Even though she let me go, I miss her. I miss her every time I look into a mirror and see her eyes. Sometimes I comb through my long springy curls and pretend that the hand holding the comb is hers. But I don’t know what that looks like. TThen I wish I was Other, the girl whose sausage curls I’ve seen Mammy comb and comb. I wish for the tight kinks of the comber or the glossy sausages of the combed. I wwwwwish not to be out of the picture.
Mammy always called me Chile. She never called me soft or to her softness. She called me to do things, usually for Other, who she called Lamb. It was “Get dressed, Chile!” and “What’s mah Lamb gwanna wear?”

Copyright © 2001 by Alice Randall Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

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