Friday, February 19, 2010

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Harriet Jacobs

In what has become a landmark of American history and literature, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl recounts the incredible but true story of Harriet Jacobs, born a slave in North Carolina in 1813. Her tale gains its importance from her descriptions, in great and painful detail, of the sexual exploitation that daily haunted her life—and the life of every other black female slave.

As a child, Harriet Jacobs remained blissfully unaware that she was a slave until the deaths of both her mother and a benevolent mistress exposed her to a sexually predatory master, Dr. Flint. Determined to escape, she spends seven years hidden away in a garret in her grandmother’s house, three feet high at its tallest point, with almost no air or light, and with only glimpses of her children to sustain her courage. In the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, she finally wins her battle for freedom by escaping to the North in 1842.

My Take:

This book was incredible.  I think the thing that struck me the most about this book, was the author's fairness.  She knew that not every white southerner was evil, and not every white northerner was benevolent.  She was able to capture the good in those people whose souls were essentially good in her eyes, even if their behavior was not always the most noble.  Another aspect of the book took my particular notice, was her incredible story telling ability.  Harriet had been blessed early on in life to live with her parents and was taught to read and write, she used this knowledge to help others throughout her life.  This also instilled her with a love of learning, and she was able to improve herself to the point of being capable of writing this fascinating narrative.  Another positive point, as the book is written after the author had gained her freedom, there was a wonderful underlying sense of hope.  Throughout all of her trials, this selfless woman remained faithful to her family, as well as to herself.  She was willing to stand up for her children because she knew that they had a right to respect and freedom solely based on the fact that they were human beings.  I think this is a very important book for all to read, because again as I said, it is fair.  She wasn't out to paint the people of the south as evil, she just wanted to share her story to help take down the institution of slavery.   She doesn't shy away from describing many of the atrocities the people in her position had to bear, but she doesn't get to graphic or explicit.  It is an accurate and judicious representation of the times, I recommend this book to all.  I give this book a 1, Pay Full Price Guilt Free, it is a must read for everyone.

Do you agree with my review?  Do you think I'm totally off base?  Either way I'd love to hear from you, be sure to leave a comment and tell me how you feel!

Did you enjoy this book?  If so, why not check out the rest of the Classics Section of The Book Buff ?

If this book were a movie it would likely be rated PG-13, there are adult themes, and some descriptions of violence, but there is nothing graphic. I would rate this PG, except for the fact that, due to the time period and language regularly used at the time, there are several uses of the derogatory "N word"

If you are interested in purchasing this book, please consider supporting The Book Buff by purchasing them from these links!


Ash said...

Well I would love to borrow that book from you, all that you have recommended thus far, are amazing!

lizzy J said...

Well, well nice place you have got going here. Sounds like a good book but I am not particularly fond of American historical novels.

I do however think that if you enjoyed that book you would really enjoy "Receive Me Falling" by Erika Robuck. It was a really good read I think you would really like it. She has a blog too and I reviewed it.

I also added you to my blog roll and became a follower. Hope to see you around.

The Book Buff said...

Thank you for the recommendation, I will definitely put it in my review queue! Hope to see you around here often!

The Book Buff said...

To Ash (sister of The Book Buff :) When I recommend a book, I really try to think about what you would like, rather that what I want you to like! I'm glad you liked the books, I'll get you some more for your next birthday!


when was this book originally written? are you on facebook or twitter and if you have an email list i can subscribe too, i sure would like it.
spvaughan@yahoo com

The Book Buff said...

It was published around 1860. It really is a wonderful book.

Jonathan Price said...

Thanks a bunch for these recommendations. You clearly have great ideas and opinions about these books you're listing. I'm curious what your opinions would be on this article I just posted.

Thanks again for your posts!

Kate the Book Buff said...

After reading your post, it sounds like you sound like you could use some John Grisham!

Erika Robuck said...

Lizzy J--Thanks for the recommendation!

To: The Book Buff--If you'd like a copy of Receive Me Falling for review, I'd be happy to send it to you.

I've never read "Incidents...Slave Girl." I'll add it to my TBR list.

The Book Buff said...

Erika I'd love to review your book, go ahead and e mail me so we can work something out!

Scotti Cohn said...

Great review! I read Incidents while doing research for my book More Than Petticoats: Remarkable North Carolina Women. I also visited Edenton, NC, where Harriet lived. It's just such an amazing story. Naturally, there have been those who claim it is not factual, but others who knew Harriet have vouched for her honesty.

The Book Buff said...

I have also heard claims that it is not factual, but to me, even if it were fiction, it would still be special. Events like those occurred all the time, whether or not they actually happened to this author doesn't take away from her powerful words, don't you agree? But me, myself and I believe it to be fact :)

Rebecca Camarena said...

This book sort of seems the same as The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equinao, or Gustavus Vassa, the African writtern in the 1780's. Interesting book.


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