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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave & Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Modern Library Classics) Mass Market Paperback – December 28, 2004
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From Library Journal
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Harriet A. Jacobs was not an ordinary slave girl, and her autobiography is not an ordinary account of the miseries of slavery. She was a slave who triumphed not only by luck or piety or passivity but by skillful planning and effective deceit...Excellent introduction...Even for those who have read extensively about the South's peculiar institution, this autobiography of a slave will not easily be forgotten. (American Heritage)
Of these female slave narratives, Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself is the crowning achievement. Manifesting a command of rhetorical and narrative strategies rivaled only by that of Frederick Douglass, Jacobs's autobiography is one of the major works of Afro-American literature...Jacobs's narrative is a bold and gripping fusion of two major literary forms: she borrowed from the popular sentimental novel on one hand, and the slave narrative genre on the other. Her tale gains its importance from the fact that she charts, in great and painful detail, the sexual exploitation that daily haunted her life--and the life of every other black female slave...Ms. Yellin's superbly researched edition insures that Harriet Jacobs will never be lost again.
--Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (New York Times Book Review)
[The book] is a major work in the canon of writing by Afro-American women...Jacobs's book--reaching across the gulf separating black women from white, slave from free, poor from rich, 'bad' women from 'good'--represents an early attempt to establish an American sisterhood.
--Wayne Lionel Aponte (The Nation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book indeed has elements of a disguise and of a novel. Jacobs never uses her real name but calls herself instead "Linda Brent." The other characters in the book are also given pseudonyms. Jacobs tells us in the Preface to the book (signed "Linda Brent") that she changed names in order to protect the privacy of indiduals but that the incidents recounted in the narrative are "no fiction".
Jacobs was born in slave rural North Carolina. As a young girl, she learned to read and write, which was highly rare among slaves. At about the age of 11 she was sent to live as a slave to a doctor who also owned a plantation, called "Dr. Flint" in the book.
Jacobs book describes well the cruelties of the "Peculiar Institution -- in terms of its beatings, floggings, and burnings, overwork, starvation, and dehumanization. It focuses as well upon the selling and wrenching apart of families that resulted from the commodification of people in the slave system. But Jacobs' book is unique in that it describes first-hand the sexual indignities to which women were subjected in slavery. (Other accounts, such as those of Frederick Douglass, were written by men.Read more ›
It is one thing to hear about how slaveholders took liberties with female slaves, it is quite another to read in stark detail about women being commanded to lay down in fields, young girls being seduced and impregnated and their offspring sold to rid the slaveholder of the evidence of his licentiousness. The author talks about jealous white women, enraged by their husbands' behavior, taking it out on the hapless slaves. The white women were seen as ladies, delicate creatures prone to fainting spells and hissy fits whereas the Black women were beasts of burden, objects of lust and contempt simultaneously. Some slave women resisted these lustful swine and were beaten badly because of it. It was quite a conundrum. To be sure, white women suffered under this disgusting system too, though not to the same degree as the female slaves who had no one to protect them and their virtue. Even the notion of a slave having virtue is mocked.Read more ›
Before I stop writing, her writing is very visual and very well-written. She even explains how she learned to write so well.
The story of how she escapes and frustrates her "owner" is indeed enthralling, a triumph of human will in the worst adversity. She hid under the slanted roof of her mothers house for years, permanently injuring her back and watching he children grow up from afar. It is such a moving story that I imagined turning it into a play, with the narrator reminising of her life while hidden in that cramped space.
As this is a memoire, the characters in it are very very real, all too human and without the black-and-white quality of too many novels on this bizarre twist of American history. While the writing style is so superb that it had to have been edited by an expert writer, the story and voice are so vivid that it must be real.
I have given this book to literally dozens of friends, and almost to a one they have marvelled at the depth of the story. This is the best and most complete account of an aberration in American history of which we all must bear some sense of responsibilty.
Get this: it cannot disappoint.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I had to purchase it for class but I would advise anyone to read it for personal knowledge.Published 4 days ago by Linsey
It tells the tale well. And, yet, it's hard to believe that a slave could have such writing skill.Published 5 days ago by Michael Movius
I read this on my kindle. This was a very good story. It is told in the 1st person so you actually feel as though she is talking to you. Read morePublished 5 days ago by joanne
I was assigned this particular book for a college course and it was initially quite slow. The introduction didn't really grab me like with other books so I sort of just muddled my... Read morePublished 8 days ago by Miguel Bojorquez
I think that this true, simple book would work better to convince people of the evils of slavery, than would a well-known fiction book, such as Uncle Tom's Cabin (even though it is... Read morePublished 14 days ago by Tara Sketchley
This was a well written extremely riveting book. It had me hooked before I finished the first page.Unlike the book / movie 12 yrs. Read morePublished 14 days ago by fjn