REVIEWS      
  The Wind Done Gone

Alice Randall

$22.00 / Hardcover / 214 pages

ISBN 061810450X

Houghton Mifflin / 2001

Fiction / African-American Fiction

Alice Randall’s first novel is a brilliant literary response to a classic’s one-sided portrayal of black people. In a realistic, fair, and historically accurate way it reconstructs our image of the antebellum South, an image that for over half a century has been largely defined by Mitchell’s famous 1936 novel.

Randall’s motivation to write The Wind Done Gone is deeply rooted. She has had a love-hate relationship with Gone With the Wind since she first read the novel while still in grade school. As time went by, the question of what became of Tara’s mulatto children, posed itself with increasing insistence. Being of mixed ancestry herself and having been told that one of her ancestors was a general in the Confederate army, this was a question that interested her personally. In her attempt to answer this question, Randall with subtle irony and finesse explodes the unhistorical world created by Mitchell’s novel.

Contrary to Mitchell, Randall depicts the black characters populating this world as fully alive, complex human beings rather than as the notoriously negative, cartoon-like stereotypes sketched out by Mitchell. Thus, Cinara, Cinnamon, or Cindy, a very plausible beautiful brown mulatto woman, moving at the center of this—now more accurately represented—world, comes to life and gets to tell her story.

Born into a world in which she is unacknowledged by her plantation-owning father, rejected by her mother in favor of her white charges, and sold off much like used equipment, Cindy eventually makes her way back to Atlanta to strike up a relationship with a prominent white businessman, only to leave him for a black aspiring politician. Having moved from Atlanta to the exhilaratingly free atmosphere of Reconstruction Washington, with its flourishing black citizenry of active politicians, professionals, and go-getters of every stripe, Cindy experiences directly the promise of the new epoch at its giddy heights but about to come to a close.

Exquisitely written, and alluding to events in Mitchell’s novel while skillfully and ironically transforming them, The Wind Done Gone presents the emotionally complex story of a strong and imaginative black woman and her struggles to escape from the destructive universe of the Old South, till she finally comes to light a mature and complete person and master of her own fate, who despite her personal travails has not lost the capacity of receiving and giving love, as daughter, lover, and mother.

But The Wind Done Gone is not simply the well-written narrative of the life of a remarkable black woman, or merely a passionate love story, or a wrenching portrayal of a tangled mother-daughter relationship. It is a book that indeed "gives a voice to those that history has silenced," a great achievement that is both literary and political and illuminates an important aspect of the African-American experience.