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Friday, June 1, 2012

To Be a Slave, a review by James

Title:  To Be A Slave
Written by: Julius Lester
Paperback, $6.99

Recently I read the book To Be A Slave by Julius Lester. The book is a compilation of testimonies given by former slaves in a series of interviews conducted by the American Anti-Slavery Society supplemented with comments and notes written by the author. It covers the history of slavery from the voyages of the first slave ships to the end of the Civil War. 

The book is a compelling firsthand  account of what it was like to live as a slave in America. Lester covers the topics of transportation to the New World, the life of the average slave, slave auctions, slave rebellions and uprisings, and reactions to the Emancipation Proclamation and newfound freedom. To Be A Slave demonstrates the cruelty of slavery and recounts horrifying tales of inhumanity on the part of the slave owners. 

Lester's notes are both enlightening and shocking, and they also clarify some of the slang and sometimes confusing dialect of the interviewees. The book is very cohesive and goes from topic to topic in a sensible way. The author's choice of selections perfectly conveys the information he intended to convey. The book does have some downsides, though. While Lester's notes are informative, they sometime fail to explain certain slang words. The narratives sometimes got very lengthy, and I believe more cutting could have been done on the author's part. Also, I would have appreciated seeing stories of slavery from outside America, despite Lester's saying that the slavery in America was the most barbaric and cruel. 

For these reasons, and also because this style of writing is not my favorite, I give To Be A Slave 3 ½ chocolate bars out of five. I thought the ending of this book with the end of the Civil War, was fitting and a good place to end. I would recommend this book to anyone older than 10 due to mentions of nudity, violence, and profanity. Overall, To Be A Slave was a gripping account of the horrors of slavery in America.

Rating: 3 ½ chocolate bars out of 5
Cover Thoughts- I thought the cover was simple yet fitting.

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