From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—This historically significant book was written by an escaped slave who eventually made his way to Great Britain. Clotel was first published in 1853 and is believed to be the first novel by an African American writer. The book traces the fictitious life of one of Thomas Jefferson's daughters, Clotel, born to one of his slaves. The story of Clotel—living as a mistress to her master, being sold when she loses favor with his wife, being separated from her daughter, her escape and attempt to rescue her daughter from slavery, ending in her suicide—is interspersed with vignettes of other slaves' mistreatment and failed escape attempts. The novel doesn't mince details about the brutality of slave families being torn apart and the discrimination that is experienced by those of mixed-race heritage. Narrator J.D. Jackson has a wonderfully clear, deep voice, and he does a terrific job with the formal language indicative of the time. The novel is available in the public domain with a free audio download that is read by volunteers, but Jackson's version resonates beautifully. However, because of the stilted language, minimal dialogue, and the disjointed nature of the book, teens may have a difficult time relating to the audiobook. It may be of use in higher level history classes. Beautiful cello music introduces and ends the narrative.—Julie Paladino, East Chapel Hill High School, NC
--This text refers to the
"A remarkable beginning for African-American fiction."
--Henry Louis Gates, Jr.