Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Ramblings on Copper Sun by Sharon Draper

Copper Sun by Sharon Draper
Release Date: June 19th,  2012
Author Website
Book Website

When pale strangers enter fifteen-year-old Amari's village, her entire tribe welcomes them; for in her remote part of Africa, visitors are always a cause for celebration. But these strangers are not here to celebrate. They are here to capture the strongest, healthiest villagers and to murder the rest. They are slave traders. And in the time it takes a gun to fire, Amari's life as she knows it is destroyed, along with her family and village.

Beaten, branded, and dragged onto a slave ship, Amari is forced to witness horrors worse than any nightmare and endure humiliations she had never thought possible--including being sold to a plantation owner in the Carolinas who gives her to his sixteen-year-old son, Clay, as his birthday present.

Now, survival and escape are all Amari dreams about. As she struggles to hold on to her memories in the face of backbreaking plantation work and daily degradation at the hands of Clay, she finds friendship in unexpected places. Polly, an outspoken indentured white girl, proves not to be as hateful as she'd first seemed upon Amari's arrival, and the plantation owner's wife, despite her trappings of luxury and demons of her own, is kind to Amari.

But these small comforts can't relieve Amari's feelings of hopelessness and despair. With strength and dignity, Amari first learns to survive, then yearns to escape to a most unlikely destination. When the opportunity to escape presents itself, Amari and Polly decide to work together to find the thing they both want most--freedom.

Decorated with vibrant characters--Teenie, the tiny slave woman who cooks much more than food, her son Tidbit and his dog Hushpuppy who become victims of vicious cruelty, the mysterious and kindly Mrs. Derby, and many others--the complicated inter-relationships of those who live together on the plantation are explored with sometimes shocking developments.

Grand and sweeping in scope, detailed and penetrating, Copper Sun's unflinching and unforgettable look at the African slave trade and slavery in America will have the impact on young readers that Alex Haley's Roots had on the previous generation.
   (from Sharon Draper's Website)

My Ramblings:

This is another one of those books that I've been circling around for years. Literally. I remember picking it up when the Borders book store shut down at the mall. I grabbed about 25 books that day because they were all closeouts, and I lack the ability to pass up a book on sale. And Sharon Draper is an author I know of, and whose books I've read, so I knew that this would be good. Difficult to read, since I know that Draper doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of the world, but good nonetheless. I can't really say why it took me so long to actually read, but I'm really glad I finally did.

The summary above does an excellent job at giving you all you need to know about what you are getting into when you read this book. But beyond all those things, this is a story about hope and survival and how you can find the will to live even in the most dire of circumstances. What I most appreciated is that Copper Sun looks at an issue that, while we all know about, can sometimes feel distant and clinical. We all know what happened, we've read about it in books and learned about it in school, but at some point it can almost become just another part of history we learn about. What Copper Sun does is take the things we know, and let us know how they felt. It puts the reader in Amari's shoes as she loses her entire village, as she loses her own identity and becomes someones property to use as they want. It shows us how it felt to to not only be a slave, but what it felt to be an indentured servant and how the cruelty of the time was not limited in it's reach and devastation. It also shows us that in the midst of all the bad stuff, there were pockets of hope and people who were willing to help. Copper Sun gives a really detailed account of the time and it's a book that everyone should read. Especially middle schoolers, who I think would really relate to Amari and Polly and would be able to see what life for them may have been like.

Draper has a really great website as well, that has amazing information about her research, why she wrote the book, as well as a study guide and general questions and answers. Her research for this book is great, and as a history nerd, I can say that I really appreciate her attention to detail and the fact that she brings to light things that you don't necessarily learn about anywhere else. I was really interested in the Fort that the girls head to when they make their escape, and will admit to loosing several hours falling into a research back hole as I went looking for more.

All in all this was a fabulous book that I would recommend to everyone!

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