Review: A Picture of Freedom

A Picture of Freedom: The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl, Belmont Plantation, Virginia 1859 (Dear America Series)A Picture of Freedom
by Patricia C. McKissack

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Picture of Freedom (Virginia Plantation) / 0-590-25988-1

The history here is correct and the Dear America diary format works well for personalizing a very complex and difficult period of history. The narrator is remarkably easy to identify with, and her love of learning and yearning to read is tangible. Her narrative reminds us what a privilege it is just to be able to read. The author has to bend over backwards to justify how a slave can safely keep a diary, when the very idea of such a thing is illegal, but we can forgive the somewhat absurd lengths this issue reaches, in order to justify having this wonderful fictional narrative.

Since this is a novel about slavery, there is some potentially disturbing material here, including a beating that leaves the slave dead after several days of serious illness. The plantation owner's child dies in an unforeseen accident which may be disturbing to young children. And both the master and mistress are quite childish and cruel, with the master accusing the long-time cook of the household of being likely to poison him to death after the master murders the cook's husband.

~ Ana Mardoll

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