Saturday, March 05, 2016

Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso by Kali Nicole Gross

This was an interesting book by Kali Nicole Gross, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin.  It seemed like it would be a juicy, gory depiction of a gruesome murder, but it really ended up being a dissection of race and politics at the turn of the century in Philadelphia.  The author brings up interesting points about our assumptions of black womanhood and how those assumptions have been shaped by slavery, and Emancipation.  Those attitudes still remain if you really think about it.  That's not to say the author touched on this, instead, her focus was on Tabbs and her ability to manipulate the system and society she found herself in.

The only thing I didn't like was that the book wasn't able to follow Tabbs and Wilson further in their lives, both before and after the trial, but that is due to the limitations of the historical records available.  That limitation actually seems to prove the author's thesis, that Tabbs' place in history rests in her interactions with the white press and legal authorities, not her own agency.  We are also so used to the paper trails and random information that we leave behind in our daily lives that it seems almost impossible that we wouldn't know more about someone accused of murders nowadays.  In a way this makes the book even more intriguing for that fact that there are so many unknowns remaining.  We are, frankly, spoiled when it comes to biographies and histories in that the subjects tend to be those with a wealth of information and resources behind them.  I'm glad there are authors who try to find obscure history topics and breathe new life into them.

No comments: