Summary: Sarah and her grandmother Lydia are slaves living in Carolina when the Revolutionary War between the British and the American Patriots takes place. Their owners are Loyalists who plan to flee to Nova Scotia, and Sarah and Lydia find themselves in The Book of Negroes with passage to freedom in the new country. Once there though, freedom is an uphill battle as promises are broken and old attitudes threaten their safety.
Number of Pages: 231
Age Range: 17-18
Review: From Barbara Smucker’s Underground to Canada to Lawerence Hill’s The Book of Negroes, Gloria Ann Wesley’s Chasing Freedom bridges the gap in literature about slavery in the late 1700s for teens. It lies closer to Hill’s work than Smucker’s though.
This is a piece of historical fiction that’s more of a challenging read. Wesley explores the story of an entire family affected by slavery, from the grandmother Lydia to her grandchildren Sarah and Prince. In the end it kind of turned into a social justice piece about a young woman who dares to follow her dreams, and I felt the focus of the book was lost a bit.
There’s no denying though that Wesley is a talented writer. Her exploration of the concept of freedom is thought-provoking and insightful. I had to whittle down my list of memorable quotes because I had so many.
I’d recommend it for older teen readers, and probably for a school curriculum type setting. Chasing Freedom is a book adults will enjoy as well though.
“‘What good is freedom, Ma’am, if all we can do is live in fear? It’s not right that we get treated this way, not here.'” – Sarah from Chasing Freedom by Gloria Ann Wesley, page 4
“‘It sure got me going,’ Reece laughed, ‘and I’m not much on religion. All it does is keep a man down, encouraging him to rely on something other than himself. We have the tools to direct ourselves and a conscience to guide us. Fools have no conscience. That is what accounts for sin. What a man needs to get ahead is not prayers, but a good fight.'” – Reece from Chasing Freedom by Gloria Ann Wesley, page 57
“A slave woman, she thought, never fully realises the joy of her heart nor the sweetness of her body. All these years, her body has served others. It has known the work of a man and a woman, the cut of the lash and the forced bearing of children, but never the tenderness of love.” – from Chasing Freedom by Gloria Ann Wesley, pages 64-65
“‘Freedom is not a reward, Sarah. Freedom is a right. Never forget that.'” – Fortune from Chasing Freedom by Gloria Ann Wesley, page 78
“‘You have to understand hatred. It’s like a poison that attacks the mind and the heart. It keeps them from feeling or understanding. Some people have the poison in them. In some minds, Sarah, you are not as good as they are. That makes you less deserving.’ Margaret bent her head and shook it several times. She could not look into Sarah’s eyes. ‘You deserve better. We all deserve better. I can’t change that, but we can’t let it stop us.'” – Margaret from Chasing Freedom by Gloria Ann Wesley, pages 192-193