I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly-a Book Review

The Diary of a Freed Girl

Source

Constitution of the United States of America, Thirteenth Amendment 1865

Section1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

This book is in the Dear America series which explores lives of young people going through the upheaval of coming to the New World, the Revolutionary War and ot

The author was writing about the Reconstruction when she happened upon the diary of a real woman named Emma Holmes who lived in the years of the Civil War. She mentioned in May 1865 a young freed girl who was described as “lame, solitary, very dull, slow, timid, and friendless.” That sad profile touched the heart of Ms. Hanson who imagined the entire why’s and wherefore’s of this girl’s life. Why was she viewed this way? Was she perhaps suffering a disability or challenge? From this, Patsy was born and brought to life.

This is one of the most inspiring books ever written. The details are mind from actual oral histories, narratives, journals and diaries of real people who lived and survived these terrible times. One continually forgets this book is fiction because of the intimate recounting of the people therein. It is written journal style by a young slave girl named Patsy. She has lived on the Davis plantation in South Carolina most all her life. Her earliest memory is of work and service to Sir and Ma’am, her owners. The story takes place in 1865 at the time of emancipation of all slaves. However many have no idea what that means and those who are aware have little choice but to remain where they are and to continue working from dawn to dusk.

Patsy suffers from a stuttering issue and is considered stupid and dull witted by the white folk in The House where she works as an assistant to the cook. She seldom speaks but listens to everything being said around her. She also is a servant to the young white boy and girl who live there, relations of the owners. During play time they pretend to teach Patsy reading and writing. Unknown to them she is very bright and easily learns to read but must hide this awesome gift. At the time it as illegal for a slave to read and write and was punishable by a court of law.

As she works in the house, Patsy falls in love with books in the library and pretends to dust and clean just so she can read her favorite children’s book. She secrets newspaper pages, removed as trash once Sir has finished them, hides them under her pallet and reads them as practice in her infrequent free time. The oldest slaves pass along folk tales from when they were living free in Africa and had wings that allowed them to fly and Patsy imagines a day when she can fly away from the burdens keeping her from her only passion. She wishes to read in public and not hide her ability.

But the Emancipation is bringing big changes and Patsy is left bereft and unable to expand her knowledge of words. Then the youngsters leave and are unable to take all of their belongings. As a joke they give the former slave a diary, pen and ink and order her to write all of her “beautiful thoughts” in it. They laugh to think a dunce like Patsy could ever conquer such a feat meant only for white people.

However Patsy excels and improves as she records her life in the diary each day. She knows it is her outlet to a miserable existence and each entry begins, “Friend.” As she records the painful and historic happenings Patsy begins to see a faint opportunity for true freedom. Ex slaves are leaving the plantation in droves for life as freed men and women.

Ma’am’s favorite house girl is Nancy who came there as a tiny toddler. She is coddled by the Mistress who has no children of her own, but is often “spanked” for failing in her duties. Patsy cannot stand the snooty girl who thinks she is better than others.

When Nancy’s real mother appears to claim her daughter Nancy refuses her. Patsy watches longingly, hoping somewhere her family is searching for her. All of this is recorded daily in the diary which must be kept hidden. Nancy’s mother refuses to leave and stations herself at the gates until she is assisted by others who offer advice. She seeks justice through the court system which is still favorable toward whites. Will her teenaged daughter be returned to her care or will she remain a ward of her white former master and mistress?

People leave the fields, house and yards one by one looking for a better life and Patsy is left alone more and more as her mentors and friends depart for parts unknown and unimagined by any but their own desperation to live free and to fly. When the only person who brings information and awareness of the new life awaiting freed people is attacked and beaten, the Davis plantation slaves wonder if they can ever become self supporting and independent. Indeed, they still wonder if freedom is real or only a dream that can never come true.

Patsy defies orders to attend church where the minister forces blacks, even though emancipated, to repeat catechism confessing their laziness and wicked heart. He reminds them to obey their masters even though freedom has been declared for all of the slaves. She knows this is wrong and seeks a God who matches up with the one in the Bible. At the black church (held outside in an arbor) Patsy hears a song called Free At Last and feels like her soul will rise and fly.

This is a life changing experience for Patsy who has experienced love for the first time in her life.

Washing Clothes

 Edisto Island, SC in 1862
Edisto Island, SC in 1862 | Source

Patsy's Faithful "Friend"

All of these experiences and awakenings are recorded faithfully each evening in “Friend” though Patsy’s hands are raw and bleeding from washing clothing for the white folks and from carrying wood to cook their food. Then her secret comes out and everyone realizes she can read and write. As she teaches the black children by drawing the alphabet in the dirt with sticks, her self confidence grows.

Then Patsy is chosen to read a newspaper to the other ex-slaves. It is called the Colored American and informs them of their new rights as free citizens. They all receive new awareness of the life that awaits them if they have courage enough to grasp it. Patsy also uses a Freedman’s Reader that a traveler brought and local newspapers smuggled from the fire bin after the white people have read them. She sees advertisements posted by desperate people seeking loved ones who were sold away or taken by an owner who moved elsewhere. Will anyone ever look for Patsy? Is anyone even out there missing her and wondering about her?

Through it all Patsy searches for a new name, one that will allow her to be strong, bold and brave. Finally she chooses a name related to her circumstances and love of the written word. But will she ever know what it really means to be free? She has no money or contacts outside the invisible walls surrounding the plantation. She does have intelligence and a newly discovered faith in herself and knows she is worthy and loved.

The Hands of a Slave

These are the hands of  Mr. Henry Brooks, who    was a slave when a young man.
These are the hands of Mr. Henry Brooks, who was a slave when a young man. | Source

Appropriate for all ages.

This book is classified as a book for Young People however is perfect reading for anyone from middle grade children to older adults. It has received the Coretta Scott King award for inspirational and outstanding contributions that promote understanding and appreciation of diverse cultures and peoples. After reading this extraordinary diary, one will indeed feel their soul rise up and fly, unrestrained and full of joy.

Plantation Slaves

Source

Other books in the Dear America series include:

  • A Journey to the New World, The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple by Kathryn Lasky
  • The Winter of Red Snow, The Revolutionary War Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart by Kristiana Gregory
  • When Will This Cruel War Be Over? The Civil War Diary of Emma Simpson by Barry Denenberg
  • A Picture of Freedom, The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl by Patricia C. McKissack
  • Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie, The Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell by Kristiana Gregory
  • So Far From Home, The Diary of Mary Driscoll, an Irish Mill Girl by Barry Denenberg

Constitution of the United States of America, The Fifteenth Amendment (1870)

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

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Comments 44 comments

Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

I have not read this book but I have read similar book Life of a Slave Girl by Linda Brent. First published in 1861 this true narrative is one of the best book I have ever read about slavery in the United States.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 5 years ago from Hereford, AZ

This is a beautiful review and makes me want to read it. You evidently loved this story and feel inspired by it. Good job, Brenda.


North Wind profile image

North Wind 5 years ago from The World (for now)

Well now, I just have to read this book and it seems, the series as well. I can never just read one part once I know there are others that are similar.

I particularly enjoy books that are written in the diary style. Maybe it is because feelings are more defined when it is told that way.

Thanks for another great review. I will definitely look for this.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 5 years ago from Taos, NM

Hyphen: Another well-written book review that just draws me in. I definitely want to read this book and this book is great for the classroom. It can be used in literature classes or social studies classes when they study the Civil War. Lots of great classroom discussions can come from this book. I don't know where you find these books, but you have a great, endless well of good books. Voted up!


femmeflashpoint 5 years ago

Hyphenbird, a fascinating review, and I'm compelled to read the book, as well as refer it to some friends that I'm sure will enjoy it also!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi Vinaya. That is indeed a wonderful book. If you would like to read more authentic slave narratives go to Project Gutenberg and search slave narratives. They are written as related by the people and are touching while enlightening. Thanks for visiting my Hubs today.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi Becky. I hope many do read this wonderful book. I just fell in love with this young girl who had so much courage and discovered she could be loved. I appreciate you dropping by today.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi North Wind. I am the same way.Thankfully I can speed read when I want to. That helps me get through a series or author specific list quickly. You local library should have these books. I have a personal copy of this one and cannot bear to give it up as I do with some books for the sake of conserving a bit of space.

I do appreciate you and your kindness.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi Suzette. You are right, this would be great for a classroom assignment. My eight year old is going to read it this week (he reads at 5th grade level). I will suggest it for the school library. I could probably bear to give up my copy if they do not have one. Suzette, you should see my book collection. I have pared it down to about 1,000. Seriously!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi femmeflashpoint. I am so pleased my review is clear and inspiring reads. This is new for me, only my second review so I am learning. I am certain everyone you refer to this book will just love it. Thanks for your time and visit to my Hub.


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

An excellent review written professionally and with enthusiasm. A side of history not always appreciated as it should be; but an inspiration for the younger or the older reader waiting to be discovered. Well done Ms. Hyph!


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 5 years ago from Hereford, AZ

Did you get this on Project Gutenberg?


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

No Becky. I ran across this at a thrift store and am so glad I snatched it up. Local libraries may have it especially as it is a Coretta Scott King award winner.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

The mined details you present are fascinating. Thank you for your efforts portraying yet another strong and courageous person.


Sunnie Day 5 years ago

Dear Brenda,

Wonderful review and one book I would love to read. It sounds like a book with much heart.

Thank you for sharing and writing such a great hub.

Sunnie


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Alastar. That was indeed an extraordinary time. Those newly free people had never been off the plantation for the most part and had no idea where to go or what to do. Many stayed as they were for lack of choice. That asks the question, Just what is freedom and what does it mean?" Thanks for your wonderful visit.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Thank you mckbirdbks. I am still learning to write these reviews and appreciate all the help I can get. My goal is to inspire a read without giving away too much about the book. I appreciate your stopping by here.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Thank you Sunnie. I hope many people do read this incredible book. I did want to present it as a Hub style rather than a plain review as I feel it is an accounting of history. That photo of the old gentleman's hands really touched my heart.


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

A wonderful review Hyphen and you have me wanting to read this book. I read 'Roots' and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Your review of this book is excellent and well written, you obviously enjoyed reading this book.

Voted up


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi Rosemay. I did enjoy the book, the spiritual emancipation of the people is an area really left unexplored. This sis very different from Roots because it doesn't get into the horrors of the life endured, but the horizon awaiting. I hope you do read the book. It is well deserving of the awards it has won.


LABrashear profile image

LABrashear 5 years ago from My Perfect Place, USA

Voted up for sure! I have never heard of the Dear America series, but want to check it out now. This book sounds amazing. It will be the first I read in the series. Thanks for the information!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello LABrashear. This was the first one I read and I sure hope this review lets many know what a great book it is. I am eager to find and read the others. Thanks for dropping by. Let me know what you think after you read the book(s).


Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Hi Hyphenbird, another brilliant book review, I am certainly going to read this and check out the Dear America series, my hubby and I have read several books recently on the civil war and are learning so much.

A well written review, thank you for sharing.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Movie Master, please do read this book. It is a sad yet inspiring look at how slavery kept so many people from realizing they even had potential. It is just wonderful.


Susieq42 5 years ago

Excellent book review! I may seek this book out; it sounds like a great sad book. Thanks for sharing.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi Susie. The book is not really sad because of Patsy and the revelations she receives. It is a fantastic read for anyone seeking a good book. I do hope you read it.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

Brenda, I will definitely read this book, it's my kind of reading. Your review is outstanding. I know it will be sad. When i think about the ' Good christian slave owners ' I get so mad. Thank you for sharing your excellent writing ability...........


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi there always. I appreciate your feedback on the review. I am still learning how to do these. Sometimes a review gives away too much information and I was cautious not to do that. The book is sad in parts but does not leave the reader with a heavy heart. Let me know what you think about the book after you read it. Blessings to you, Hyphen.


Truckstop Sally profile image

Truckstop Sally 5 years ago

I love this series! Great historical fictions . . great format. Anything to keep kiddos reading!!


Lynn S. Murphy 5 years ago

Another excellent hub Hyphenbird that makes me want to know her new name. Amazing how out of the ashes the unexpected ones become heros.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi Truckstop. These really are great books. I am an experienced reader of all genres and feel they are entertaining and mature enough to interest adults also. Thanks for the visit.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Lynn. I wanted very badly to tell her name, but want to encourage people to read the book also. Sometimes reviews tell so much that the excitement of a book is lost. It really is inspiring to know that such potential and gifts are in every person. Thanks so much for coming by.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

You have certainly inspired me to read this book, and in fact, the entire series. Thank you so much for your out-standing review and you have introduced a collection that I knew nothing about. I will share my progress in reading with you from time to time, if that is ok with you. Thank you beautiful lady!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Please do let me know vocalcoach. I hope others will find this book, and series, as inspirational as I did. My son is beginning this one tonight. It is great for young people and youngsters up to 99. I am so glad the review works, and hope many people will read this book. The girl in it, Patsy, is a lovely person and I can picture myself in her position. Thanks to you my precious Hub friend.


Cloverleaf profile image

Cloverleaf 5 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

Hi Hyphenbird, It sounds like a fascinating read! You're enthusiasm for this book shines through in your hub. An excellent review, voting up.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Cloverleaf. This is a great book and my love for it allowed me to hone my writing skills by publishing a review. I enjoyed that too. Thanks for coming by, it is nice to see you.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

Great review that brings to life the personal and difficult struggle that many freed slaves had after emancipation and reminds us that simply creating a law does not mean its implementation will be smooth or systematically managed. You also did a good job in reminding us how long it took for information to make its way to the general public and into the hands of those who were former slaves. Plus the fear that slaves had of leaving the plantations without knowing how they could clothe, feed and support themselves.

Thanks for sharing this review. Do you know if the book's been made into a movie?


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

What an amazing review hyphe bbird and after reading it I am going to keep my eyes peeled for sure.

I vote up and away here and here's to many more to share on here.

Take care

Eiddwen.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello HBN. I have not seen anything about a movie from this book. It sure would make a great one though. I think most people think Emancipation was proclaimed and everyone just was happy and life was good. That is not so. Most ex-slaves had no where to go or anyway to earn money except what they already were doing. A lot continued to pick cotton and farm or cook for others. It was a time of learning and opportunity was challenging as well as exhilarating. Thanks for coming by Happyboomernurse and leaving such wonderful comments.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi Eiddwen. I do hope you find and read the book. It is one that will never be forgotten and gives a person hope and inspiration. It is so good to see you.


camila 4 years ago

it was good story because I read it.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Camila. Thanks for letting us know that. I hope many more people will read this book.


dominic 3 years ago

i read this book in school it was so good it is not evn funny


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 3 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello dominic. I am glad you like the book. I think it is wonderful and encourage all people to read it regardless of their age. Thanks for stopping by. HB

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