Passenger on the Pearl by Winifred Conkling

Passenger on the Pearl by Winifred Conkling (Algonquin Books, January 13, 2015) is a middle-grade nonfiction story about two young girls who sought to escape slavery in 1840s Washington, D.C.

Emily Edmonson was only 13 when she joined siblings and others on the small ship The Pearl in hopes to escape North. It was the most daring mass slave escape ever attempted, and it was tragically captured before it reached the safety of the North. The book captures the horrors of slavery from a unique perspective: that of a girl on the brink of freedom.Continue Reading

Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis

As I’ve scoured the lists of books about revolutionary America for a book to read for my own education, I struggled to find one that covered a variety of people (I love biographies, but I can’t read one about everyone!) and eras (I would love to learn about all eras of the revolution, from the pre-revolution, the actual war years, to the beginning of the republic and later political fall out). At the same time that I’m I’ve been searching for the perfect book about the revolutionary era, I remembered I had picked up a used copy of Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph Ellis (Vintage Books, 2000) in a previous year’s book sale. I decided it was the book to read right now.

I was expecting Founding Brothers to be a collection of mini-biographies about the “brothers” of the revolutionary generation. Or maybe it would be about the Constitutional Convention and how they all worked together. Honestly, I did not know what it was, but any expectations I did have were far surpassed in Ellis’s complex portrait of the generation that founded the country. His work is both thorough and completely readable.Continue Reading

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship that Changed the World by Penny Colman

I wonder if my recent news about my upcoming arrival prompted me to notice this book on the New Books shelf? Possibly. Baby Monkey is a GIRL! and I’m delighted and excited that Raisin will have a little sister.

At any rate, when I saw the biography of the two foremost proponents of women’s rights (at least for the last half of the 1800s), I felt the need to pick it up and read it. For, although I know the name of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and I’ve of course been exposed the Susan B. Anthony as an historical figure, I knew very little of the work, the lives, and the legacy of the two women.

Penny Colman’s young adult biography of the two women (titled Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World) tells their story, especially focusing on the women’s rights work that they dedicated their lives to. Although the book had some flaws, it was full of history that I needed to learn and I’m glad I read it. Continue Reading

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Melodrama is defined by Merriam-Webster as

a work characterized by extravagant theatricality and by the predominance of plot and physical action over characterization.

By creating a world with both excessively good characters and excessively evil characters, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel about the horrors of slavery is certainly melodramatic.

Yet, given her intended audience and the era in which she was writing, she could not have had the impact she had in Uncle Tom’s Cabin without the melodrama. Although Ms Stowe wrote a rather didactic novel about the evils of slavery and the true meaning of “Christian”, the stereotyped characters became beloved friends to the reader, and the continued action kept the reader engaged. There was nothing remarkable about the writing – and I personally tired quickly of the novel’s style.

Nevertheless, it is clear Ms Stowe created a masterful classic of historical importance by her techniques in writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin (first published 1852). Reading the novel helps one better understand the difficulties of slavery in the years immediately preceding the Civil War, particularly because the arguments against slavery Ms Stowe makes are so emotional and realistic.

This post contains spoilers of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.Continue Reading