After reading the review for "Copper Sun" on audio over at Heather's blog Book Addiction, I immediately ordered it from my library. I've been wanting to become more culturally diverse with my reading selections, so this recommendation fell into my hands at the perfect time. The author's name also seemed very familiar to me, and then I realized that Ms. Draper was a panelist at the UCF Book Festival that I recently attended. Her middle-grade "Sassy" series is also a HUGE hit at my kids' school. This was the perfect example of a book throwing itself in my path and demanding attention!
Synopsis: Amari is a fifteen-year old living in a remote village in Africa. She is nearly a woman now, and is betrothed to a young man who makes her heart flutter. When a group of white men enter their village, they are welcomed with warmth and celebration. In return, they kill the children and elders, capture the young and the healthy (including Amari), whip them and chain them together and march them through the jungle to places unknown. Amari's life will never be the same.
Amari is forced to endure horrors...being raped and beaten, held captive in a cramped and foul ship for months, branded, and eventually sold to a wealthy plantation owner as a "gift" for his spoiled 16 year-old son. But there are blessings too. Amari and a white indentured servant girl Polly, purchased at the same time, are both embraced by a community of slaves working at the plantation. Through countless abuses and humiliations, an unbreakable bond is forged between the girls, and together they decide they must take a risk for the sake of freedom.
My thoughts: Back when I was in middle school, I read "Roots" and it sticks in my mind to this day. Reading about the horrors endured by Africans, ripped from their families and homes and forced into slavery, traumatized me. Amari has a similar, albeit a comparatively condensed, story here. Draper's novel is written with a young adult audience in mind, so descriptions are not as graphic, but equally as sobering. The author does not shy away from the realities of a slave's life though; she delivers justice to their suffering.
Although saddened, I was equally as charmed by the characters in the story. They all came alive for me - there was an entire cast of colorful personalities, some of them precious and others despicable. I was touched by the individuals who loathed slavery and took chances to make a difference in Amari's life. I particularly enjoyed the development of the relationship between the girls - both servants but of different races, and realizing that color doesn't make one person superior to the other.
Living in Florida, I was excited at the mention of Fort Mose (located just a couple miles north of St. Augustine), which was the first free black settlement in the US. As part of my kids' 4th grade social studies classes, they learned about Fort Mose and have even visited it. It is such an important landmark and one often overshadowed by all of the amazing history just down the road.
A word about the audio production: This audio was narrated by Myra Lucretia Taylor, who did a wonderful job. She has a velvety-smooth voice that was very easy to listen to, and was also masterful at a number of accents present in the story. Her reading was slow and deliberate, and that took some time to get used to, but ultimately I appreciated that this allowed me to really focus on the beauty of the words.
4.5 out of 5 stars