Friday 3 October 2014

Come August, Come Freedom

Come August, Come Freedom by Gigi Amateau (Candlewick/Walker Books)
PB RRP $17.95
ISBN 9780763668709
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Gigi Amateau has created an outstanding historical factional novel on the African American slaves of the mid to late 1700s. The main character Gabriel was a real person, and it is around his life that the story is built.

Gabriel is born on the Brookfield plantation and belongs to Thomas Prosser along with his two brothers and parents. He is educated with Prosser’s son, Thomas Henry, and grows into an intelligent person who looks and acts much older than his years.

After Gabriel’s father is taken away never to return, Gabriel and his brother Solomon are sent to the smithy to learn and take over their father’s trade. It is while in Richmond, that his mind further expands when he witnesses further unrelenting injustices of white landowners against the working slaves.

He dreams of becoming like Toussaint L’Ouverture, the leader of the Saint Domingue rebellion, known as the black general, which saw the slaves revolt and gain freedom. This is what Gabriel wanted for his people above all else. It was toward this end that plans were made for that dream to come true in October 1800.

Woven into the historical events is a powerful love story between Gabriel and Nan, the slave girl he loved from childhood. His other longing was to purchase her freedom, so their children could also be born free.

But conspiracy, treachery, and betrayal via promises of reward from people he trusted, tragically end Gabriel’s dream.

These dramatic times in American history are portrayed in lyrical prose with deep spiritual content that reflects the hearts and minds of the slaves of Virginia. Reading about their inhuman treatment and the control by whip of their owners, brought frequent tears to my eyes. But nothing could stop me from continuing.

This is a book of incredible depth and valuable historical content. It will propel the reader to further examine the history of the times and the evolution of the slave trade. It unearths the unshakable faith, strength, courage and determination to gain freedom nurtured by the African American slaves in the face of continued brutality, injustice, suffering and death.

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