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Cy in Chains [Kindle Edition]

David L. Dudley
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Cy Williams, thirteen, has always known that he and the other black folks on Strong's plantation have to obey white men, no question. Sure, he's free, as black people have been since his grandfather's day, but in rural Georgia, that means they're free to be whipped, abused, even killed. Almost four years later, Cy yearns for that freedom, such as it was. Now he's a chain gang laborer, forced to do backbreaking work, penned in and shackled like an animal, brutalized, beaten, and humiliated by the boss of the camp and his hired overseers. For Cy and the boys he's chained to, there's no way out, no way back.
   And then hope begins to grow in him, along with strength and courage he didn't know he had. Cy is sure that a chance at freedom is worth any risk, any sacrifice. This powerful, moving story opens a window on a painful chapter in the history of race relations.

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In post-Reconstruction Georgia, Cy has befriended Travis, the white son of the volatile landowner for whom he and his father sharecrop. When Travis tries to run away, Cy tries to help, but he is instead implicated in Travis’ drowning death. Cy is captured, blindfolded, and taken far away, where he spends the next several years in a forced labor camp, chained almost 24 hours a day. Amidst the reprehensible conditions and constructs of the chain gang, Cy contemplates the nature of life, death, God, and friendship as he struggles to weigh the hefty risk of escaping into freedom versus his eventual but certain death in bondage. Cy’s and the other boys’ backstories offer a rich picture of the time. Cy’s narrative is harrowing, and even so, it likely takes it easy on the descriptions of the deplorable conditions in the for-profit labor camps in which young “offenders” were kept often for no other reason than being black. Not for the faint of heart, but a thought-provoking, valuable look at an overlooked episode in American history. Grades 7-10. --Heather Booth


"Full of emotionally charged depictions of brutality, physical abuse, and prejudice, Dudley's third historical novel is a tough and painful read. Dudley's use of dialect helps immerse readers in the injustice of the story, as he risks everything in the name of freedom."
Publishers Weekly

"A ferociously well-paced book. . . Dudley invites a hard look at each individual's understanding of freedom, justice, and responsibility. It is a slanting truth across over a century in which much—and little—has changed."

"Life in the chain gang is relentlessly oppressive, violent, and heartbreaking. Cy's transformation from innocence to anger and, finally, with the support of his friends, to a leader willing to take risks is compelling."
School Library Journal

Product Details

  • File Size: 518 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books (December 17, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,311,385 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Disturbing, Violent Novel ... April 15, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Basing his novel “Cy in Chains” on actual events and the treatment of young, black men following the Civil War, David L. Dudley has created a moving, but violent historical novel. Stark brutality and the inhumane treatment of those unjustly sold or sentenced to juvenile chain gangs provide sharp contrasts to the care and concern these young men showed one another. Their silent rage; their instincts for survival; their ability to cope with the horrors they faced; and their ultimate quest for freedom, whether physical or spiritual, are addressed through the telling of Cy Williams' story.

“Cy in Chains” begins with John Strong’s beating of Teufel – German for “Devil” - a spirited, black stallion, because Teufel failed to win the race in which Strong had entered him. Strong’s attitude toward Teufel parallels southern whites’ attitude toward and treatment of black youth and men. They were deemed dangerous; they were black “devils”. They were to perform for their “masters”; their perceived failures warranted a beating. When Strong’s son drowns following his attempt to rescue the horse and to escape his father with Teufel, thirteen-year old Cy Williams is blamed for Travis’ death. Strong has Cy kidnapped and sold to a juvenile chain gang. There and in order to survive, Cy feels he must shield himself from emotional attachments. He dreams of revenge and of freedom. When the opportunity for escape occurs, Cy must choose between a solitary escape and caring for others who have shown him compassion.

The target age group for “Cy in Chains” is 14 and older. While more mature, younger readers would be able to read and understand this novel, parents may want to read it before giving it to them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! February 10, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
After being wrongly accused for the death of Cy's best friend, he is arrested and sentenced to a chain gang. Cy spends from age 14-17 working on the chain gang with several other young boy his age. As the story takes place in the late 1800's in Georgia, it is expected that the boys are mistreated and brutally punished for the smallest of infractions. The tale of hard labor but also the bonding of the boys brings the reader back to that time period to witness injustice.

My thoughts:
Wow! Not only does Dudley bring to life the time period, but he grips the reader in with the characters. Cy feels like a real historical being. It's almost as if we were watching a documentary of his life. Almost immediately, I was sucked in and didn't want to stop reading. I cried and wished for Cy to have a better life. I wanted to rally for his rights and safety. This book just pulls so many emotions from the reader that you want to jump from your chair and act. It's so difficult to read through the punishments, brutal beatings, and horribly difficult work that Cy is forced to do. The fact that most of the boys have really done nothing wrong makes it even more difficult. Dudley does not hold back and lets the reader live with injustice without the promise of a happily ever after. It's a book that will not soon be forgotten.

I would be careful giving this book to students that are too young. I would shoot for high school as the lowest age group. It fits perfect with my Junior American Literature course, but I had a student that gave it back to me because it was too hard for her to read (emotionally, not textually). There is a section about the history at the end of the book that I used within my course lecture (with reference to Dudley of course).
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great historical fiction September 1, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
Cy should have never interfered in the white man’s ways, he was warned. Working in the Strong’s Plantation in Georgia, he was friends with Travis Strong and when Travis took off, Cy went after him. In the morning, Cy received the whip from Travis’ father for the state of affairs he found them in. What happened next, Cy will forever hold in his memories as it transported Cy to a chain-gang camp miles away from the plantation he grew up on. Cy, was just doing what he thought was best but being a black plantation worker didn’t give him any rights and now working 12-hour days without any family nearby, Cy needs to earn his place in the camp before they take him out. Cy, this once courteous boy, must start sticking up for himself, earning himself a place in the camp and soon the other boys in the camp begin to fear him. The days are long and the stories are sad and torturous as they struggle to survive each day. There are visiting days as outsider visitors come and Cy wonders why his father does not come and see him, his anger deepening as each month passes. With a handful of characters, I got attached to a few of the inmates as Cy tries to adjust to his new daily routine. Their stories are distinct yet they all have a few ribbons that all tie them together. They fill each other with realism, with desire and excitement as their day starts to take shape. Individuals come and go, each with new ideas, sparking thoughts and dreams in each other, giving each other hope and clouding their minds with despair and realism. Each day seems to be the same yet it is different. Five years are the maximum they say you will last in this camp, Cy is wondering if he will make it that long and why.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely amazing realistic historical fiction
This is an amazing book. The story is filled with history and drama. It's emotionally super-charged and a great new novel that can be read by young adults in relation to slavery... Read more
Published 22 days ago by Charity A.
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant and Moving
Poignant and moving, Cy's story changed me. The skill of the writer popped me into the story in the first paragraph and kept me spellbound until the world around me dragged me away... Read more
Published 25 days ago by Ellen C. Maze Sallas
4.0 out of 5 stars Emotionally taxing tale of a young, black boy in a chain gang
Cy in Chains is a disturbing, honest book for middle grade children. The main character, Cy, is a black adolescent in rural Georgia around 1890. Read more
Published 1 month ago by L. Bravim
4.0 out of 5 stars A good, well written, historical fiction novel.
Not for elementary children to read, but possibly middle school. This is a well written story that looks at the hardships of slavery and how earning your freedom didn't mean you... Read more
Published 3 months ago by CCGal
4.0 out of 5 stars A Deeper, Darker Coming-of-Age Story
This is a powerful and gripping book about a teenaged black boy who is kidnapped and essentially sold into slavery at the turn of the 20th century. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Indoctorinated
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful. An amazing YA book
In my never ending quest to find books for my teen male patrons I picked up this on. The book was different than so many I had read. Read more
Published 3 months ago by YA Librarian
4.0 out of 5 stars Good story.
Great writing. Excellent characters. The story moves along quickly with no extra words thrown in just to lengthen the book. A good look at injustice. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Terry L
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing portrayal of America's chain gangs
David Dudley's "Cy in Chains" is a tragic story about a young 13 year old child, Cy, who is arrested for a crime he didn't even committ, and sentenced to a chain gang. Read more
Published 7 months ago by silhouette_of_enchantment
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece of African American Young Adult Literature
Cy is a 14 year old boy in the late 19th century when he is arrested and sentenced to a chain gang. He spends years as a prisoner from ages 14 to 17 living on a juvenile chain... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Lynn Ellingwood
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a children's book
Although Cy is 13 at the beginning of the book, and 17 for the remainder, this isn't a children's or even young adult book. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Neal Reynolds
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