Black History Month 2015 – Black History Book Review

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Black History

 So far, this is my second post on black history this month, the final day of February.

Black History Book Review

This Strange New Feeling_Cover

Title: This Strange New Feeling: Three Love Stories from Black History

Genre: Historical

Synopsis: “The horror of slavery . . . the excitement and terror of escape and the problems of the newly free are dramatized in three stories based on actual historical incidents. . . Memorable.” —School Library Journal

“Lester here personalizes and vitalizes the essence of freedom.”—Booklist

In two short stories and one novella, Julius Lester has created a rich, layered, and ringing portrait of the slave experience in America, and of the perseverance and bravery it took to seek out love and freedom during that time. Included is the tale of Ellen and William Craft, the escaped slaves who became famous abolitionists. And new for this edition, in honor of the book’s twenty-fifth anniversary, is a thought-provoking author’s preface about freedom and empathy. This Strange New Feeling is historical fiction at its finest.

Julius Lester_Author

Author: Julius Lester

Throughout the years, I have embraced the plights and achievements of blacks. Today, I want to discuss the damages of slavery…mainly, the lack of freedom.

A very dear friend of mine, Charles Lober, sent me this book for black history month with the note attached…“Thought you might enjoy this …would be a good author on your blog”

Well, as most of you know, I’m an avid reader. I started reading and enjoying this book long before I realized that it’s a children’s book. It has two short stories and one novella about the joys and the sorrows of slavery, all inspired by true events in black history. This book won the Coretta Scott King Award in 1983. In honor of the books Twenty-Fifth Anniversary, the author, Julius Lester, wrote a thought-provoking preface about freedom and empathy.

Julius Lester  is a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, where he taught Afro-American Studies, history, English, and Judaic Studies. So, I guess it was destined to be a wonderful book—long before I read it

My friends must have thought I was crazy, because I was telling everyone during black history month about this wonderful book that I had “discovered.” LOL So, now, let me tell you about it!

When I read the first story, This Strange New Feeling, I thought this is not a love story, but when I had finished it, I realized that it was a different type of love story. Raz was a slave carpenter who was working with a white carpenter named Jakes. Jakes kept telling him about all the things he could have if he was free. Raz never said anything, so Jakes thought he wasn’t listening. Later, his Uncle Isaac and a white man helped him escape from slavery and go to the town Jakes had told him about. Raz was caught when Jakes turned him in. Raz was returned home, but he didn’t get a whipping because he told the other slaves how awful it was up North. But soon he and his woman, Sally, helped other slaves to escape.   They are almost caught and must kill his master to save their own lives. The sad part of the story was that Uncle Isaac’s wife had strangled her own babies rather than have them live in slavery.

The second story, Where The Sun Lives, Maria falls in love with Forrest Yates, who has been a free black man all of his life. She had grown up with her mistress, who dies at a young age. Her master sells all of his wife’s slaves and sells Maria to Forrest. They live together as a couple and she enjoys a taste of freedom, until Forrest is killed in a freak accident and all of his property must be sold to pay his debts—including Maria. She loses her freedom, but Maria has seen where the sun lives.

The final story, A Christmas Love Story, a novella, is the story of William and Ellen Craft, who run away from slavery to Philadelphia at Christmastime. Ellen can pass for white and poses as an injured young white man and William poses as his slave. They are almost caught several times, before they find freedom in Philadelphia. They later go to Boston, where her husband wants to tell people about how they escaped from slavery. She wants to live a quiet life and keep the story to them selves. They begin telling their story and become celebrities. President Fillmore signs the Fugitive Slave Bill. Then John Knight and Charles Hughes came to reclaim the slaves—William and Ellen Craft—and return them to the south and slavery. When the President vows to send the military to enforce the newly passed Fugitive Slave Bill, the Crafts are helped to hide and, eventually, to run by Reverend Theodore Parker, Lewis Hayden and many other famous people in the Slavery Abolition Movement. The part I loved best about this story is that years after the story was written the author met William and Ellen Craft’s great-granddaughter in real life.

I know I told you what happened in the stories, but you have to read the book to see how it happened. (You didn’t think I was going to tell you everything, did you?)

In one of his interviews with Scholastic Magazine, Julius Lester’s suggestion to other writers was, “Read, read, and read. You have to know what other people have written. You have to have a good grasp of literature.”

I agree with his observation for writers.

February is a month to remember our history, but I propose that we think about our history every day—not just in February. I will try to give you 7 Black History Tidbits once a week (one for every day). It’s your job, as readers, to keep me honest and when I miss a week, email me.

Now, my only wish is that I can get an interview with Julius Lester!

I rate this book…


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Endorsement Disclaimer: All reviews posted on this site and written by Cheryl Holloway are personal opinions of the book by the reviewer. The reviews are NOT paid endorsements of the book or the author. They are not advertisements. All reviews are honest, forthright and the opinion of the individual reviewer, freely given. Our opinions are not for sale.