The black family without a father. The man sent away to prison and destroyed by the system. The pain of poverty. This story is not unique to the world today–it is in fact the story of “Sounder,” which takes place in an unnamed time. Time is loose in this novel, the exact years never specified, the story moving at the same pace across weeks or hours. Time, like history, is ever-present but hard to name.
It’s funny how problems we think of as contemporary can go so very, very much deeper than we like to think about. We blame a lot of things on the media, or the modern drug culture, or the modern whatever. So many people take it for granted that things are worse than they used to be.
But that lets us off the hook. We can complain that someone else brought this to us. This is a new problem, and its newness makes it vulnerable.
The problems of the prison system are not new. And if contemporary society were as free of racism as so many like to claim, this book would no longer be relatable.