The Catbird Seat

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
Kindle Edition
Reviewed on 06/27/2022
Buy on Amazon

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Free Book Program, which is open to all readers and is completely free. The author will provide you with a free copy of their book in exchange for an honest review. You and the author will discuss what sites you will post your review to and what kind of copy of the book you would like to receive (eBook, PDF, Word, paperback, etc.). To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email.

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Book Review Exchange Program, which is open to all authors and is completely free. Simply put, you agree to provide an honest review an author's book in exchange for the author doing the same for you. What sites your reviews are posted on (B&N, Amazon, etc.) and whether you send digital (eBook, PDF, Word, etc.) or hard copies of your books to each other for review is up to you. To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email, and be sure to describe your book or include a link to your Readers' Favorite review page or Amazon page.

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Book Donation Program, which was created to help nonprofit and charitable organizations (schools, libraries, convalescent homes, soldier donation programs, etc.) by providing them with free books and to help authors garner more exposure for their work. This author is willing to donate free copies of their book in exchange for reviews (if circumstances allow) and the knowledge that their book is being read and enjoyed. To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email. Be sure to tell the author who you are, what organization you are with, how many books you need, how they will be used, and the number of reviews, if any, you would be able to provide.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

The Catbird Seat by Rebecca Hollingsworth is a compelling comparison of race relations in South Carolina from before the Civil War right up to the time of the 2000 furor of the Confederate Flag flying over the State House in Columbia, South Carolina. The story is told from two perspectives: that of a poor, white cotton farmer in the pre-Civil War days, who almost inadvertently ends up owning three slaves, including a giant of a negro by the name of Hutto, and also through the eyes of Gil Culkin, a historian at the Carolinian Library, attached to the University of South Carolina. When protests began against the Confederate Flag, Gil was a little nonplussed as to what the fuss was all about. After all, hadn’t black people had equal rights since the Civil Rights Act of 1964? How could a simple flag evoke such anger and disgust when really it was just a memorial of the courageous, long-dead Confederate soldiers who fought so bravely to protect their homeland? As a historian, though, Gil was trained to look at the human connections and decisions in history that led us to our current place. When she is handed a diary written by a poor cotton farmer from the 1850s to decipher and record, the desire to know and understand more about the black plight and their injustices becomes uppermost in her mind. What will she discover about herself, her family, and her attitudes toward racial equality, not just in the South but all across America?

The Catbird Seat beautifully captures the dilemma facing white people all across the United States who believe that there already is equality between the races and simply cannot understand why black people are still complaining. They are unable to grasp the true meaning of the phrase “white privilege” and believe it is some sinister plot by the black population to gain an unfair advantage over them. They cannot understand why they should be held responsible for righting the wrongs of their forebears. Author Rebecca Hollingsworth does a superb job of presenting Gil Culkin, a smart, accomplished highly thought of academic who suddenly finds herself having to question her standard attitude to race relations, in light of the ongoing protests over the Confederate Flag and the unending attempts over the past century and a half to keep black people at the lowest economic, social, and educational levels. In William Medlin, the cotton farmer, the author presents a typical poor white farmer, whose understanding is of the necessary evil of slavery for the economic prosperity of the South but tempered with a true belief that these black folk are just simple human beings like him. He doesn’t ascribe to the prevailing belief that they are sub-human and worthy only of slavery. His own close encounter with enslaved human beings beautifully exposes the myths and fallacies about black people.

I particularly appreciated the way the author beautifully wove the entire suppressive history of the black population into the story. By combining the two timelines, Gil, as a good historian, was able to trace the pre-Civil War through emancipation, reconstruction, the repression of Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movement of the mid-20th century, right through to the protests against the Confederate Flag in 2000. This is a deeply thought-out and considerate story that anybody who cares about race relations should read. When a book provokes deep thought and searching personal questions from its readers, it has achieved its goal. This book does that and I can highly recommend it.