Review: I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly

I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl, Mars Bluff, South Carolina 1865 (Dear America Series)I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly
by Joyce Hansen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I Thought My Soul Would Fly (South Carolina) / 0-590-84913-1

Of all the Dear America books, I believe that this one is the most historically accurate, well-written account to date. I especially recommend this book as a superb insight into the plight of "ex"-slaves immediately following the Civil War; this fictional diary shows clearly that the "free" slaves were in many ways no more free than before.

The diary format is believable and well-written here; where the other Dear America books sometimes falter over the diary format, "I Thought My Soul" provides excellent reasoning for why the narrator has access to writing materials and why she keeps her thoughts in a potentially dangerous diary. Young Patsy quietly and aptly describes life on the plantation in the wake of the Civil War: the rising hopes and dreams, and the disappointing crescendo when it becomes clear that their masters intend to treat them the same as before. The slaves are quiet, firm, and resolute as they calmly demanding legal marriages, proper wages, fair education, and the right to raise their own children as they see fit.

The challenges the ex-slaves face are legion, from Southern gangs harassing freemen, to former masters who force illiterate men and women to sign "contracts" which aren't worth the paper they are written on, to Northern 'liberators' who help round up freemen and force them to work off their lodgings before being allowed to leave the plantation. It's made very clear that this new, indentured slavery is indistinguishable from the old slavery.

Patsy slowly, painstakingly, teaches herself to read and write, not unlike the real Phyllis Wheatley. And when the masters refuse to provide a teacher for the young children, despite their "contract" which states otherwise, Patsy teaches the young children herself. The love of learning here is tangible, and serves as a reminder that our privilege of literacy is a privilege indeed.

~ Ana Mardoll

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