The book, Spectacle, The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga by Pamela Newkirk is a story about a Congolese man named Ota Benga who was captured by an explorer named Samuel Phillips Verner. Samuel’s mission was to bring a group of indigenous Congolese people to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1904. The book follows Verner’s mission trip to Congo that turned into a personal movement motivated by the desire for a society dominated by whites. It touches on Ota Benga’s travels through the World’s Fair, the brief time he was kept at the New York Zoological Park (Bronx Zoo), and the remainder of his life in a Brooklyn orphanage and later in Lynchburg, VA. It also talks about the international controversy Ota’s captivity created.
I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I had hoped to. I was hoping for a story about Ota Benga himself and his life story but the book was mostly about events that related to Benga. It was very difficult to follow because of some time skips and information that didn’t seem very necessary. It was definitely educational and I learned a lot about Benga, Verner and the extent of racial discrimination in that time. I did not enjoy reading this book myself but if you are someone who likes a lot of backstory and background on a topic that you can do further research on this book might be for you.
Recommendations: Three books I would highly recommend are The Cellar by Natasha Preston, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, and Taking Flight by Michaela DePrince. The Cellar is probably my favorite book and it is a story about a girl who gets kidnapped and renamed after a flower to fit into her kidnapper’s “perfect family.” This is probably my favorite book and I recommend it to anyone. The Art of Racing in the Rain is an amazing story of a dog’s life from the dog’s point of view. It is a heartbreaking story and is definitely a book everyone should read if you have a dog. Taking Flight is the story of a girl named Michaela DePrince who was born in Sierra Leone and had Vitiligo. It follows her life in the orphanage where she was treated as a “devil child”. This is a very inspirational story of a young ballerina and the hardships she has been through.