Alex’s Book Cave: ‘Ring Shout’

Ring Shout was released in 2020.

Photo by Lily Werner

“Ring Shout” was released in 2020.

During Black History Month, it’s important to look back at the persecution and discrimination that has affected Black people. From 1619 to 2022, the fight for true equality under the law continues. While we must be introspective this month, it can’t stop here. We must continue to fight for a more equitable country during the rest of the year and lift up Black voices whenever and wherever we can.

For this week, I read “Ring Shout” by P. Djèlí Clark. “Ring Shout” follows Maryse Boudreaux as she kills demons known as ‘Ku Kluxes.’ Ku Kluxes came into this world when the Second Ku Klux Klan summoned them during the premiere of “The Birth of a Nation” in 1915. They’ve been around for seven years at the time of the story, sowing distrust in the American populace, swelling the KKK’s ranks, inciting violence and feeding on the hatred of white people.

Accompanying Maryse in her journey is the foul-mouthed Sadie Watkin and World War I veteran Cordelia Lawrence. Together, the trio work for Nana Jean, an old woman with deep connections to Gullah culture. Maryse and her resistance fighters are on the front lines, sending the Ku Kluxes back to hell where they belong.

But something is brewing in her town of Macon, Georgia. An entity more sinister is about wreak havoc on our world and Maryse needs backup. This is a fight for the soul of our nation.

Rating and Review:

This year, I’ve made it a goal to step out of my comfort zone as a reader. This book was the perfect stepping stone, confronting racism and the KKK while also having three Black women as main characters. These women are strong, smart, resilient and driven. It’s something we don’t see much in the media, print or otherwise. Especially given the time this novel is set, the 1920s, it’s refreshing to see a new angle of Black excellence.

This novel oozes Southern gothic, with depictions of boogeymen from African culture, humid Georgian nights and tension that was strife during that time period. The depiction of Ku Kluxes was bone chilling as well. They were described as having six eyes, crawling on all fours and having tight pale skin covering their bodies.

The title comes from a religious ritual practiced by African slaves in the Caribbean and the United States. The people participating in the ceremony move in a counterclockwise fashion, clapping their hands and stomping their feet. One person would be singing and the others would respond to their calls.

Before this, I had never heard of Gullah culture. Gullahs are the descendants of African slaves who live South Carolina and Georgia. They have very preserved history and cultural heritage. They have a rich linguistic, religious, culinary and storytelling history that is now celebrated in areas like Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina.

Bringing this element into the novel and having it play a central role in the story really helped accentuate the lasting beliefs of the descendants of slaves and how those beliefs fit into a changing America.

You can easily read this book in a day. That being said, I will have to knock off a star just because of the shortness. I would love to see this develop into a series. The ending does set up nicely for a sequel. While it does an amazing job crafting these characters, I felt that I wasn’t really able to connect to them in the way I would in a longer novel. It’s still an amazing story though, and a perfect read for this Black History Month.

I rate “Ring Shout” by P. Dèjí Clark four out of five stars. 

This story was written by Alex Wagner. He can be reached at alex.wagner@marquette.edu.