I’ve just read a fascinating book: The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd. It is beautifully written, with fascinating female protagonists, both white and black.
Much of it takes place in ante-bellum Charleston, South Carolina, and details the extravagantly wealthy lives of the white slave owners, with descriptions of grand ball dresses, reminiscent of those worn by Scarlett O’Hara. The garments are made by slaves, who wear rags, and live in poverty. The vicious punishment of the slaves for the slightest errors underline the vast distance between slaves and slave owners.
The leading character in the book is Sarah Grimké, brilliant and ambitious and thwarted by her family to prevent her from doing anything that interests her, forcing her to live the life of a southern debutante, which she hates. Sarah is given Hetty ‘Handful’ Grimke, a young slave, as an 11th birthday present and wants to set her free, for which she is punished. Sarah knows that slavery is a great evil, and Hetty longs to be free, but she and Hetty are young, female and helpless. The book follows these young women for the next 35 years, as they struggle to escape from their separate prisons.