She wanted to stay awake, wanted to see what freedom looked like, felt like at midnight, then at the cusp of dawn.
Freedom. Mariah has barely dared to dream of it her entire life. When General Sherman’s march through Georgia during the Civil War passes the plantation where she is enslaved, her life changes instantly. Joining the march for protection, Mariah heads into the unknown, wondering if she can ever feel safe, if she will ever be able to put the brutalities of slavery behind her.
On the march Mariah meets a young man named Caleb, and a new dream takes root—one of a future with a home of her own and a true love by her side. But hope often comes at a cost. As the treacherous march continues toward the churning waters of Ebenezer Creek, Mariah sees that the harsh realities of her and her peoples’ lives will always haunt them.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination, War, Violence, Implied sexual assault, Mutilation
Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 8-11. Award-winning Bolden’s latest takes readers back to 1864, the waning days of the Civil War. In rural Georgia, recently emancipated Mariah hides in the root cellar when Sherman’s troops sweep into town. Joining the march, she meets Caleb, a young black man whose manner of dress and comfort with the white Union soldiers raises an eyebrow among Mariah and other formerly enslaved people. As they march toward Ebenezer Creek, Caleb develops feelings for Mariah, while she struggles to believe in her newfound freedom and plan for a future for herself and her younger brother, Zeke. Caleb and Mariah both harbor secrets and pasts that shape their worldviews, but they’re starting to warm to each other when the unthinkable happens. Chapters alternating between Mariah’s and Caleb’s points-of-view lay bare the differences between the experiences of a free black man and those of an enslaved woman. Caleb’s journal entries, for instance, signal a desire to publish or own a newspaper, while enraged Mariah laments, “colored lives don’t matter.” With keen insight, Bolden mines a lesser-known historical event and brings the human cost vividly to life. In particular, the moment when the freed men and women are abandoned by the creek as Confederate forces descend will surprise and horrify many readers. Bolden’s trenchant, powerful novel is a strong testament to the many lost lives that certainly did—and still do—matter.
Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
In late fall of 1864, Sherman’s March to the Sea is underway, and while the Union army wreaks havoc throughout the South and stamps out Confederate defenses to win the war, thousands of enslaved black people find themselves suddenly, disorientingly, freed by the army as well. Mariah, a young black woman in Georgia, can scarcely believe that her dream has come true when she is liberated along with her little brother Zeke and joins the march as it heads toward Savannah. She wants nothing more than an acre of her own ground, with the memories of death and cruelty behind her—nothing more, that is, until she meets the kind but inscrutable Caleb, who helps her and her friends adjust to life amidst the army. Caleb returns Mariah’s feelings and relishes planning a bright future with her and Zeke, but he is also wary, aware that tensions are rising as the march continues, as the previously enslaved confront despised black slave drivers, and as Union soldiers begin to see the black civilians as a burden. Mariah and Caleb’s relationship develops a little quickly for two such cautious and responsibility-laden young adults, but their shared trauma and fragile hopes are breathtaking in their authenticity as tragedy inevitably engulfs them. Alternating between Mariah and Caleb’s perspectives, Bolden fleshes out a small, harrowing historical betrayal, weaving an unforgettable story and capturing both the frailty and resilience of hope. An author’s note tells more about the December 1864 drownings and massacre at Ebenezer Creek; a list of sources is also appended. anastasia m. collins
About the Author
Tonya Bolden is a critically acclaimed award-winning author/co-author/editor of more than two dozen books for young people. They include Finding Family which received two starred reviews and was a Kirkus Reviews and Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year; Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl, a Coretta Scott King honor book and James Madison Book Award winner; MLK: Journey of a King, winner of a National Council of Teachers of English Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children; Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty, an ALSC Notable Children’s Book, CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, and winner of the NCSS Carter G. Woodson Middle Level Book Award. Tonya also received the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC’s Nonfiction Award. A Princeton University magna cum laude baccalaureate with a master’s degree from Columbia University, Tonya lives in New York City.
Her website is www.tonyaboldenbooks.com
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