I received this book for free from NetGalley FierceReads and Turn the Page Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.So Many Beginnings: A Little Women Remix by Bethany C. Morrow
Published by Feiwel & Friends on September 7, 2021
Genres: Young Adult Fiction / Classics, Young Adult Fiction / Historical / United States / Civil War Period (1850-1877), Young Adult Fiction / Own Voices
Source: NetGalley FierceReads and Turn the Page Book Tours
Buy on Amazon
Are You Ready for a Remix?
Are you ready for a right and proper remix?! Forget the whole idea of a retelling, because So Many Beginnings: A Little Women Remix by Bethany C. Morrow is not that. It is a new story and a great one at that. I finished this book and it left me with a sense of joy. It’s also the first book that I have finished for my September TBR list and September New Release Wish List.
If you haven’t already guessed, So Many Beginnings: A Little Women Remix is a remix of Louisa May Alcott’s book, Little Women. This remix takes you to the Freedmen’s Colony of Roanoke Island, North Carolina during the Civil War in 1863. The March family has built a home for themselves after fleeing their enslavers and Mr. March has gone to Corinth, Mississippi to see how another colony has obtained success in their endeavors.
The story follows four sisters: Meg, the oldest daughter. She is a teacher who longs to find love and start a family. Jo, a writer whose words are too powerful to be contained. Beth a talented seamstress searching for a higher purpose. Amy, a dancer eager to explore life outside her family’s home.
I loved how these sisters interacted with each other and loved each other. They knew each others moods and could anticipate their reactions. They showed kindness and love to each other. There was a true familial bond between them. Here are some of things I loved about each sister:
- Bethlehem (Beth): She isn’t just an angelic sick girl. She has a voice and uses it strategically to plant seeds and to stand up for what she believes is right in her and her sisters lives.
- Meg: I felt for her unique struggle of having to deal with the fact that her time and childhood were stolen from her because she had to serve “the wealthy white girl” in the big house. She struggled with her desire to become a wife and mother because she felt she missed out on all of the opportunities to mingle and meet boys her age when she was younger.
- Amethyst (Amy): She is definitely the annoying little sister. But she is way less annoying than Alcott’s Amy. I love that her storyline revolves mostly around her family’s commitment to allowing her be a child. Something that was not possible in the “old life.” You can see the blossoming affect this has on Amy as the story develops.
- Jo (Joanna): Jo is feisty, funny and smart! Yes, she is a writer just like Alcott’s Jo, but her writing is focused on a more political tone. She writes to bring attention and support for the Freedmen’s Colony. You can also see the connections between the oral tradition and the written word as she develops her writing process.
Family, Love and Language
This story is focuses on the power of family, language and love. It is a story of young Black girls becoming independent young Black women. It is a reclaiming of Black family and childhood and love in a time period that saw so many families separated and destroyed and childhoods that were non-existent. The girls process their traumatic childhood and existence when they were enslaved both through their actions, interactions and their purposeful word choice for how they describe their captors. They control their narrative and take back their power from their captors. I appreciate that the trauma never dominates the narrative and the girls get to focus on becoming women and living their lives to the fullest, in the present, now that they are free.
For those readers of Alcott’s Little Women, you will notice that the language style is similar to it. But what you should really pay attention to is Morrow’s word choice throughout the novel when it comes to how the March women refer to white people in the “old life” as enslavers, captors and wealthy white girl. The words of slave master and mistress are nowhere to be found in the novel. There is one instance of the word slave though, and when you get to that part you will see how that word is used purposefully.
This was so critical in conveying how they processed their pain and healing. It is super powerful and I will say healing from my own perspective. When you use the old terms, you put those who were enslaved into a role where things only happened to them. This way of using language gives them back their power and makes them whole human beings who have dreams and wishes and aspirations.
This was another theme in the book that I found spot on in the character’s dialogues with each other. The topic comes up several times, when the girls are challenged with the question of whether or not they should forgive their white captors and the white people who stood by and let slavery flourish. But the most memorable one to me was the conversation between Beth and Constance Evergreen, the white missionary who nurses Beth when she is sick.
“Can something be true if it contradicts the scripture?” Constance remarked. “Love keeps no record of wrongs, and we are called to love our neighbors.” ……
“It’s difficult to let those who held the scripture hostage and warped it to justify enslavement and treachery stand as authorities on its meaning. I don’t mean to imply that there isn’t a true and certain meaning, but it will rarely be championed by the same people who distorted it in their favor.”….”If we were loved by our neighbors, there’d be no record to keep, after all, “Bethlehem said, in a graceful way that perhaps only she could.(pg. 142-143, So Many Beginnings)
It’s a Classic
This book isn’t just a remix, it’s a classic unto itself. I hope educators and parents see this and encourage children to read it as such. Adults and children alike will love this story. I can’t wait to share it with others.
I came for… historical fiction featuring young black women
I stayed for…. a story that captured me and my heart
Hot Cocoa Moments: Why am I in love with the chillness that is Mr. Loren aka Lorie???
Would I Read it Again: Yes! Let’s make it a movie while we are on the topic… pretty please!
Educator Recommendations: Check it out, read it, give it to kids to read. Use it conversations when you talk about enslaved people and the time period. It will give students a better picture of the human beings that were enslaved that is different than the history books that objectify, victimize and leave them without a voice. This is an opportunity for students to discuss empathy, forgiveness, empowerment and family, all through the lens of a coming of age story.
Turn the Page Book Tour Stop: Instagram
Check out my Instagram post from my Sept. 12 Book Tour Stop for the So Many Beginnings Book Tour!
Thank you to NetGalley, FierceReads and Turn the Page Book Tours for providing an arc and finished copy of the book for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
Author Bio: Bethany C. Morrow
A somewhat-recovering expat living in the American Northeast (with one foot still firmly planted in Quebec), Bethany C Morrow writes speculative fiction for both the adult and the young adult market.
Her adult debut, MEM, was an ABA 2018 Indies Introduce pick, and a June Indie Next pick, and was featured/reviewed in: Locus Magazine, the LA Times, Buzzfeed, Book Riot, Bustle, and Tor.com, among others.
She was editor and contributor to TAKE THE MIC: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance, which released with AAL/Scholastic in October 2019.
Bethany’s YA debut, A SONG BELOW WATER is a contemporary fantasy, and released in June 2020.