March­ing to Zion

  • Review
By – May 13, 2013

Coin­ci­dence or not, the pub­li­ca­tion of March­ing to Zion on the occa­sion of the fifti­eth anniver­sary of The March on Wash­ington is a pow­er­ful reminder of the discrimi­nation and unspeak­able hard­ships African Amer­i­cans suf­fered. We are again intro­duced to Jew­ish fam­i­lies with his­to­ries equal­ly hor­ri­fy­ing. This is Mary Glickman’s third tale of African Amer­i­cans and Jews in the South. This one takes place in the years between 1917 and the Depres­sion. It pro­vides yet more over­whelm­ing evi­dence for the changes that need­ed to hap­pen but were in real­i­ty a dis­tant dream.

His­tor­i­cal events pro­pel the sto­ry from the 1917 bru­tal race riots in East Saint Louis, to the famed Mis­sis­sip­pi flood, to the grow­ing Amer­i­can Zion­ist push to rec­og­nize Israel and the fore­shad­ow­ing of events in Europe.

As Glick­man has done before, the his­to­ry is framed by an impos­si­ble love sto­ry. Once more it is inter-racial, with well-real­ized char­ac­ters who are deter­mined, thought­ful, will­ful, dam­aged, and dan­ger­ous. The mov­ing force is Mag­nus Bai­ley, big, pow­er­ful, and dap­per. Through him we enter into Fishbein’s Funer­al Home. Fish­bein, a reclu­sive but suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man, grieves with vivid mem­o­ries of pogroms and loss. We meet and enjoy Mags Preach­er, new­ly hired to pre­pare the bod­ies for bur­ial, and her men­tor, George. A relation­ship between them blos­soms into some­thing real and dear. It is tra­di­tion­al and accept­able. Two blacks, mar­ried, start­ing a fam­i­ly, liv­ing down­stairs in the boss’s house. Jux­ta­posed is the upstairs sto­ry. It is here, where Mag­nus Bai­ley and Fishbein’s daugh­ter Min­er­va meet, and their aching­ly heart­felt, col­or- blind love is born.

March­ing to Zion is a mem­o­rable sto­ry, with a very clear mes­sage that the jour­ney is not over. We must keep march­ing for the dream to be realized.

Pen­ny Metsch, MLS, for­mer­ly a school librar­i­an on Long Island and in New York City, now focus­es on ear­ly lit­er­a­cy pro­grams in Hobo­ken, NJ.

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