4 out of 4 stars
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Last week’s incident that saw insurrectionists stage a protest at the U.S. Capitol building is bound to elicit varied reactions from a cross-section of people. One outcome that has a bearing on this book, Bad Dogs: A Black Cadet in Dixie by Ken Gordon, was the flagrant display of Confederate flags at the seat of American democracy. As is discussed in Jon’s story, last week’s incident is a testament that the forces of white supremacy, hence racism, are still active today.
In the 80s, Jon Quest was a cadet at the Military University of the South (M.U.T.S.). Realizing that black unity was the instrument of effecting change at the university, Jon—then a student leader—advocated for measures of stopping racially offensive jokes and outright racial harassment of black students on the campus. Where appropriate, he was wise enough to know when to seek advice across the racial divide.
Accordingly, one such person Jon reached across to, on occasion, was Mr. Simon, an active participant in the M.U.T.S.’s Cadet Adoption Program. He mentioned him as one of the sources of the most significant and educated experiences in his life. One such enduring lesson related to how Jon should react when forced to sing “Dixie” by the upperclassmen. Furthermore, through using the example of Uncle Tom, Mr. Simon taught Jon that the best course of action in getting what one wanted was to become proficient in his/her opponent’s game before bettering it.
In the novel, what I liked best was the narrative style, as well as the colloquial language used by the characters. Through Gordon’s writing, I felt the novel captured the authentic soul of the black urban youth, who had been thrust into an unforgiving environment that they had to survive by their sheer wit and camaraderie. Moreover, it took grit and creativity for the black students’ leadership agenda to be considered by the predominantly white administration. As a result, there were many tense moments where both sides were pitted against each other in a showdown. One such memorable case involved a certain black freshman (toad), a brother of a member of the university’s board of directors, who was racially abused by a group of white cadets.
On the other hand, the book seemed to have been professionally edited. Nevertheless, I found four editing errors in it. This was the only aspect I found negative in the novel. Importantly, since the number of errors wasn’t enough to affect its rating, I rate it 4 out of 4 stars.
Lastly, this book has some insightful reflections on the true nature of racism. Unfortunately, because of negative news, it can be difficult to imagine a world that is free of racial prejudice, inequality, and injustice. I recommend it to readers who are brave enough to talk about the scourge of racism and its effects. As well, it’s a book suitable for readers who want to understand racism better, probably so that they can incorporate change on a personal level. It’s, however, less suited to readers who are affected by strong language in any work of art.
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