A Critic's Meta Review: 4/5

The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass (REVIEW)

Reading this book has had a direct impact on my physical fitness - on more than one occasion, for that matter.

Not just because reading a first hand account of the unforgivable cruelty faced by Frederick and his fellow prisoners of the white man’s wicked clutches made me sweat a few pounds off (which it undoubtedly did, as my general practitioner can attest to by way of presenting to you my last two physical examinations, side by side).

No - that is not the impact that I wish to comment on here. The impact that I am referring to in the opening statement of this review can be seen in the fact that, shortly after I finished reading this book, I rode my bike from Washington, DC to Baltimore, MD (where the bulk of this memoir takes place). Now, rather unfortunately (as I was only in Baltimore for a day and a half due to my pressing feline duties back at home) I was not able to visit any of the sites I had planned to check out during my trip to Baltimore; that, however, was not necessarily the point of the trip.

The point of the trip was to put myself through immense physical discomfort (and without a rack to hang my bag on, immense is quite an understatement here) in order to catch even a faint, fleeting glimpse of the pain felt by my man Fred.

This is, obviously, a gross comparison to be making (and I should be ashamed for even thinking to make it). Nevertheless, I feel it is a fair one. I got a lot out of that trip, good and bad, but one thing that I got out of it that nobody can ever take from me is a story.

The same can be said of Frederick Douglass. There is no question that being a slave made his life unimaginably (unless you have read this book, of course) difficult. In fact, to question such an undeniable fact should be grounds for a neck (no self serve, either). And yet, look what it has left us with: one of the most compelling works of nonfiction that has ever seen print.

This is not an exaggeration, by the way. I have gone on to recommend this book to just about everyone I have spoken with regarding the topic of race in the United States - a topic that all of us should be discussing more, despite claims (by white people) that it is being discussed far too much.

I think you should read it, too - even if you already have. Even if you just read it this morning. Pick it up and read it again.

I will buy you ice cream.

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