Monday, October 10, 2011


Anderson, L.H. (2008). Chains. NY: Simon & Schuster.
LS5385: YA Lit/Historical Fiction

I had boxed myself in as a historical fiction hater and was pleasantly surprised by this novel. I am cautiously optimistic that it may just be that I will find other books in this genre as well-written and entertaining and eye-opening as was Chains.

What was painful - thanks to the historical accuracy - was that the smart, plucky main character, Isabel, was repeatedly wronged. She was legally freed from slavery but since the lawyer couldn't be located just then, she became the property of someone else. She was then sold and mistreated and abused. As each event occurred where I thought things would go well, or she'd get out of the bind, or someone would be just and fair with her, the reality of life for a black girl in 1776 America came crashing in. Instead of close calls and happy resolutions, I was reminded of the circumstances and injustices upon slaves.

Fortunately, Isabel did not let her circumstances defeat her, and through strength and faith and belief in herself, she overcame - as much as anyone could in that time.

The book ended with Isabel's future unsure but looking brighter, and the announcement on the last page that there is a sequel if anyone wants to know what happens in the next chapter of Isabel's life.

Isabel was an extraordinarily smart and brave child. She was able to do much of what she did because her owner had allowed her to learn to read. Reading opened worlds to her as a small child, but even when her new owner didn't allow her to read, she found a way and she continued to learn. Good message, though I'm not sure how many slaves were not illiterate. 

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