Rosa, a slave in the Deep South of America in the 1840s, has skin pale enough to ‘pass for white’. So when she and her husband Benjamin can no longer tolerate the sexual abuse of Rosa by her mistress’s husband they devise a desperate escape plan that involves Rosa disguising herself as a white gentleman with Benjamin as her slave. They face a thousand mile journey to freedom in the north and the many obstacles they face cause the tension and sense of jeopardy to rise as they near their goal.
This is a story of incredible resourcefulness and bravery as two illiterate slaves travel to freedom, facing terrible odds with only their own ingenuity and determination to help them. Their struggle does not end in the free north as the introduction of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 forces them to flee again, this time to England. Tanya Landman has written a work of historical fiction inspired by the real-life escape of William and Ellen Craft from slavery in America’s Deep South. It is an inspiring story, particularly Rosa/Ellen’s sustained impersonation of a white gentleman, but it is also a story of fear, desperation, brutality and sexual abuse. It presents the horror of the white slave owners’ behaviour and their justification for this behaviour. The language that would have been used at the time is not censored, though offensive terms are used sparingly, so as not to lessen the impact of the brutal reality of the time.
In just one hundred pages Tanya Landman has written a powerful, shocking and thought-provoking story, based on real events, and she deals with strong themes, slavery, race, cruelty, sexual abuse, miscarriage, identity, in such a way as to encourage reflection and discussion. The story is told through Rosa’s narration, thus giving Ellen Craft a voice she did not have in contemporary accounts, and one of the most moving and powerful moments comes at the end of the book when Rosa finds her own voice to lay to rest the tormenting ghosts of her past.
This is a Barrington Stoke title which makes it particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant and dyslexic older teen readers. This dyslexia friendly format combines with the author’s skilful writing in a particularly effective way to ensure that every word counts in this powerful story.