Saving Savannah is the story of an African-American girl becoming a woman on her own terms against the backdrop of widespread social change in the early 1900s America. As a daughter of an upper-class African American family in Washington D.C., Savannah is lucky. Feeling suffocated by the structure of society, Savannah meets a working-class girl named Nell who introduces her to the suffragette and socialist movements, inspiring her to fight for change.
Saving Savannah is the portrayal of a young African-American woman who lives post-WWI. is a valuable portrayal of affluent African-American society and of post-WWI life. Told through the eyes of an affluent 17-year-old Savannah Riddle, who has experienced a privileged life, which is much different than other African Americans during this time period.
Savannah becomes disgusted by her privilege, and ventures out on her own, much to the dismay of her parents, who do not want her to become a photographer in Harlem. Soon Savannah befriends the cleaning woman’s daughter, Nella, and Nella’s cousin Lloyd, who is described as a socialist-leaning activist and begins to volunteer at the all-black National Training School for Women and Girls. Savannah’s journey takes her deep into African American history and heritage and as she begins to open her eyes to the world around her, Savannah eventually becomes a “radical”.
I love reading fictional books that throw in a bit of history. Tonya Bolden adds in historical incidents, riots, and leaders that we should all learn more about. Savannah’s “coming of age” journey allows us to step into the past, to experience a time, that while not pleasant, is one that is slowly slipping away (in regards to living history) as my great grandparents begin to pass away. This book was very difficult to digest in certain parts. Much like life during that time period, it wasn’t pretty. It’s a stark reminder that no matter your privilege, that there were difficulties across all income levels for African American’s.
I do feel as if there were things missing in this particular story. Savannah’s character I felt took an extreme turn, however, in the historical context, I feel that it was a much-needed turn. Bolden uses Savannah as a guide and through her eyes, we are able to garner respect for the struggle and how many people and families sacrificed during that time (and during the many many years since then) to make a better life for themselves.
I was provided this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.