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Monday, September 10, 2012

Come August Affecting, But Not Amazing

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Gabriel has never been the most ordinary slave laboring at Virginia's Brookfield Plantation.  As the "milk brother" of the master's son, he has spent much time in the Great House, playing with Thomas Henry Prosser, being doted on by Mrs. Prosser, even learning to read and write.  As he grows, Gabriel realizes that his "busy mind" will never be content on a plantation, that he, himself, will never be free unless he can be his own man.  After working in Richmond as an apprentice blacksmith, he becomes even more certain—he needs his freedom.  But he can't leave without his family, so he plans to buy escape for all of them, starting with Nanny, the washerwoman who will soon become his wife.  

When Gabriel's plans go awry, he decides to take a more aggressive stand.  He's heard about Touissant-Louverture, a former slave whose successful fight for freedom abolished slavery in Haiti.  He's also heard rumbles from white dissenters in Richmond.  If all who oppose slavery fought it boldly, wouldn't the leaders of Virginia and the U.S. hear their pleas?  As Gabriel battles for the rights he knows he deserves as a human being, he'll learn just how much freedom costs—in blood, sweat and tears.

Come August, Come Freedom (available September 11, 2012), a historical YA novel by Gigi Amateau, brings the cruelty and injustice of slavery to life with spare prose and poignant scenes.  Gabriel is a sympathetic character, not just because he's owned by another man, but because he's brave, loyal and true.  Although his story is difficult to read, it reminds us of the price real slaves paid for the right to be their own masters.  That being said, I didn't love Come August, Come Freedom.  The prose is a little too skimpy and distancing for my taste.  While I cared about Gabriel, I didn't know him enough to really become invested in his story.  Because of this, Gabriel's tale just didn't pack the kind of punch other books of this type have had.  It is a quick read, though, and one that has stuck in my mind nonetheless.  Overall, though, there are many other books about slavery that spoke to me stronger than this one did.  

Grade:  C+

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), violence (including physical/sexual abuse) and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Come August, Come Freedom from the generous folks at Candlewick Press.  Thank you!

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