I have read this twice now and I am still very compelled by the story presented. Crafts is an intuitive and bold writer. Some of the passages are over-dramatic, but not in a way to detract from the story. Considering this was written in 1857 or so, the novel is still easy to read. I enjoy her personal comments on topics such as slave marriage, celibacy, and others; many of them contrary to the public view. I just wish the last chapter was more in depth and didn't end. However, it was written in the present tense, contemporary with the author's own life.
If you like this, there is also a book of critical essays edited by Gates that discuss the many mysteries surrounding Hannah Crafts and her story. Noted scholars have been unable to determine the true identity of Hannah, but have all come to some common conclusions about her life.
This is also a great book for discussion. I proposed it for our book club and can't wait to find out what the other members think. Enjoy!
The part of the book that was Hannah's story I found to be very interesting. However, there is a large portion of the book that deals with Mr. Gates acquisition of Hannah's manuscript & it's provenance... 175+ pages! I got bored with all that & skipped ahead to Hannah's story, which was quite good.
If you are interested in the history of the manuscript & it's verification of authenticity, etc. then you'll enjoy that part much more than I did. I just wanted to get on with the story.
When Professor Gates saw a modest auction catalog listing for an "Unpublished Original Manuscript" he knew he could be on the verge of a major find. After exhaustive research he found that the handwritten manuscript he had purchased was the only known novel by a female African American slave and possibly the first novel written by a black woman anywhere.
This story tells of a self-educated young house slave who knows all too well slaverys burtal limitations but never suspects that the freedom of her beautiful new mistress is also at risk. -- or that a devastating secret will force them both to flee the South and make a desperate bid for freedom.
This is the day to day experiences of bondwoman thru her fiction.The Bondwoman's Narrative is well worth reading on historical grounds, especially since it was never published. As Gates argues, these pages provide our first "unedited, unaffected, unglossed, unaided" glimpse into the mind and experiences of a fugitive slave.
the new mistress, a woman who seems haunted. In fact, she is hunted: someone who holds proof that her mother is a slave is blackmailing her. Knowing her mistress will be sold if exposed, Hannah encourages her to flee, and flees with her. Thus begins Hannah's journey, as she passes through the hands of prison guard, slave trader, benevolent caretaker, mean and petty masters and finally to freedom. The style is sentimental and effusive, but it is also winning. Crafts's portrayal of the Wheelers--a small-minded but ambitious couple who prefer to "live at the public expense"--is incisive and utterly familiar. Though Gates chose to touch up Crafts's punctuation, he left her spelling as is and included her revisions, which were remarkably few. Crafts clearly understood the needs of her narrative and the conventions of the 19th-century novel in a way that many first novelists (of any century) don't.
This is a wonderful book for enthusiasts of history, African American studies, and genealogy.
It is one thing to read about the injustices of slavery from a historical or even an observer's point of view. It is quite something else to learn of the daily life of a slave in their own voice. Such is the case with "The Bondwoman's Narrative" penned by a female slave in the 1850s.
It is a fascinating and horrifying account Don't be put off by the long introduction. It becomes more significant after reading the narrative itself.
A rare glimpse the lives of the past. Amazing reading.
This book truly gives the reader of sense of the time and circumstance of Hannah Crafts. I thouroughly enjoyed the book. I have also recommended it to my high school history students, and all who have taken the time to read it have come away with a deepened sense of understanding and compassion. Highly recommend!
This book was marvelous! From sleeve, "Thanks to the unrelenting probe of a Harvard University histoian, again, we get the story from the woman's mouth itself...we elaven the day-to-day experiences of a bondwoman through her fiction..." Maya Angelou
This is a compelling read! Probably the only known novel by an African American female slave and very possibly the first novel by a black woman anywhere. Hannah Crafts seems to be really recording her day to day experiences. Original sentences and thoughts are lined out and amended - very interesting! It shows her original thought and later her amended thoughts in many places. This manuscript is an amazing find, discovered by a brilliant historian - a fluke? Perhaps, but maybe not--it's a story every American should read. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!