Published by Simon and Schuster on 2012-06-19
Genres: African American, Colonial & Revolutionary Periods, Historical, People & Places, Prejudice & Racism, Social Issues, United States, Young Adult
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Stolen from her village, sold to the highest bidder, fifteen-year-old Amari has only one thing left of her own -- hope. Amari's life was once perfect. Engaged to the handsomest man in her tribe, adored by her family, and living in a beautiful village, she could not have imagined everything could be taken away from her in an instant. But when slave traders invade her village and brutally murder her entire family, Amari finds herself dragged away to a slave ship headed to the Carolinas, where she is bought by a plantation owner and given to his son as a birthday present. Survival seems all that Amari can hope for. But then an act of unimaginable cruelty provides her with an opportunity to escape, and with an indentured servant named Polly she flees to Fort Mose, Florida, in search of sanctuary at the Spanish colony. Can the illusive dream of freedom sustain Amari and Polly on their arduous journey, fraught with hardship and danger?
Slavery is an incredibly important part of US History, and something all students should study, as the study of slavery leads to the foundation of studying race relations in the US, how we got to where we are now. Obviously it’s not perfect, and we’ve still got a ways to go. Copper Sun by Sharon Draper deals with pre-Revolutionary era slavery. It opens with one of the main characters, Amari, in Africa, just before her village is sold out by another African tribe. What ensues is a heartbreaking, although, ultimately, uplifting story of overcoming the bad shit life hands to you, friendship, and freedom.
Amari is a fabulous three-dimensional character. She is not a caricature at all, we see a lot of her thoughts and feelings, and how she evolves throughout Copper Sun. She has a very hard life, I mean, imagine being ripped away from your family, your homeland, to deal with being repeatedly raped night after night and never seeing those you loved in a former life again. Yeah, it sucks, but Amari deals with it bravely, knowing she must live, although she does not quite know why it is so necessary to live through such a painful ordeal, yet she is continually told she has a destiny.We see Amari exhibit strength and courage throughout the novel, she endures things many of us, hopefully, will never have to go through. Yet, she also shows leadership and this strong survival instinct. I don’t know if you can tell, but I really admired Amari.
Interwoven with Amari’s tale is Polly’s story. Polly is an indentured servant living on the same plantation where Amari is a slave. Polly and Amari do not get along at first, due to Polly’s upbringing, she believes slavery causes white people to lose jobs, which was true. Anyways, some sort of friendship blooms between Polly and Amari, and well, I like seeing a good friendship story. They bond over a commonality — working for a complete asshole. Also, both have hard lives and no parents. I know indentured servitude probably sounds like an awesome deal, come to America, work 7 years, then be free. But a lot of the time, bosses would extend indentured servitude contracts. Indentured servants were treated like shit, not quite as bad as the slaves, and actually, in pre-Revolutionary America, slaves and indentured servants would run away together quite often, check out A People’s History of the United States for more information, as well as American Slavery, American Freedom by Edmund Morgan for more information. Polly was sort of annoying at first, but after getting to know her character, I came to really like her. Go figure.
Other awesome supporting characters included a little kid nicknamed Tidbit, and his dog, Hushpuppy. I’m a sucker for dogs in books, and Hushpuppy certainly earns his role. As well as Afi, Amari’s friend made before the slave ship journey to America.
Copper Sun by Sharon Draper was a fast paced, quick read. I felt as though I had learned something but wasn’t beaten over the head with knowledge, although, I’m certainly not adverse to knowledge at all. I wish I had read this while student teaching, because of the awesome further resources list at the end, which included websites. I was always looking for new things to bring into the classroom, plus I think giving kids excerpts of this to read in history class will allow for the students to connect with the past on a whole other level. Draper’s scholarship is evident, and well, this was a fantastic way for a history nerd like me to peek into the past.
Other reviews of Copper Sun by Sharon Draper:
I read this as part of the PoC Challenge as well as the YA Challenge.