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Stand the Storm Paperback – June 24, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (June 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316007056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316007054
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #262,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Bookmarks Magazine

Like her first work of historical fiction, Stand the Storm weaves together the tale of an African American family struggling to cope in a white world. Although this novel takes place a few generations before River, Cross My Heart, it packs an equally powerful punch. Despite its horrors and violence, Stand the Storm is a surprisingly uplifting love story about men and women attempting to free themselves from bondage. Critics praised the emotional depth of Clarke’s characterizations and her compelling portrayal of life in a city that discriminates against its African American inhabitants. They diverged slightly on the quality of the writing, but the memorable cast of characters—primary and secondary—as well as the humane story more than made up for any flaws.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In this story of a slave family buying its freedom, Clarke illuminates and personalizes a dreadful part of our nation’s past. Skilled needleworker Sewing Annie at Ridley Plantation in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, trains her son, Gabriel, so well that at the age of 10, he’s hired out to a tailor in Georgetown (also the site of Clarke’s best-selling debut River, Cross My Heart, 1999). Gabriel is successful enough to buy manumission in 1854 for himself and his family, a bargain abrogated by crafty Jonathan Ridley in 1862 when District of Columbia slaves are decreed free with their owners eligible for compensation. Although the family, taking the surname Coats, no longer suffers the cruelty commonly meted out to persons considered the property of others, abject humiliation and threats to their liberty continue. Clarke laces the novel with details, including accounts of syndicates of African American laundry women and U.S. black troops, to the extent that plot becomes secondary. Although some incidents seem extraneous, and even primary characters are dispatched with unseemly haste, this is a vivid view of slavery. --Michele Leber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

"Angels Make Their Hope Here", Breena Clarke's third novel, is set in a mixed-race community in New Jersey at mid-19th century. Breena Clarke's debut novel, "River, Cross My Heart", an 1999 Oprah Book Club selection, illuminated the vibrant African American community in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Ms. Clarke, a Washington native, returned to Georgetown for the setting of her second novel, "Stand The Storm", a bittersweet, lyrical novel that delivers a passionate portrayal of the trials and hopes of the enslaved and newly freed in Civil War Washington. Breena Clarke lives in Jersey City, NJ.

Customer Reviews

It was a very interesting read and well worth my time.
Julie Peterson
By the end I found myself simply not caring about the main characters.
D. Warmbier
If you only read one of this author's book, this is the better one.
Judith A. Rogers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Pretty Brown Girl VINE VOICE on July 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Breena Clarke's Stand the Storm centers on the story of "Sewing Annie" Coats and her son, Gabriel, expert tailors who manage to purchase their freedom at the cost of entering a less than lucrative business arrangement with their former owner. Nonetheless, hard work and thriftiness allow them to purchase Ellen (Annie's equally talented daughter) and her daughter, Delia. Prosperity reigns but the clan is happy for only a short while. The threat of re-enslavement looms at every corner as the reality of the times are made clear with the risk of being illegally captured by "pinchers" and sold South never to be seen again. There was also the ever-changing laws and complicated slave/freeman policies that deceitful slave owners misuse to extort and exploit freemen, not to mention the nerve-wrecking uncertainty of their status living in a district surrounded by slaveholding states as the country enters the Civil War.

The history lessons are supplemented with interludes of courtship and conflict featuring some colorful, charismatic and lovable, yet sympathetic characters who serve as love interests and arch nemeses for Annie and Gabriel. Luck and courage are also factors in their adventures propelling the "freedom train." Their industrious and ingenious survival skills are demonstrated during their humiliating encounters with whites and other undesirables. Unsurprisingly, for a story rooted in this era, the ugliness of racism and sexism are a given and Clarke does not skirt the realities of the degrading, violent sexual abuse that women and children of color endured at the hands of slavers, owners, or any white male in a position of authority. However, through Delia, the author broaches the sensitivities of colorism and the complications that it brings to the Coats's household.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on July 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Sewing Annie Coats is a slave on the Ridley plantation. She's the best there is at her craft (taught by Knitting Annie) and she teaches her son, Gabriel, everything he needs to know about sewing so he can avoid working in the fields. As a young boy, Gabriel begins working for Abraham Pearl, a tailor. The man is kind to Gabriel and soon Gabriel learns the tailoring business and dreams of earning enough money to buy his freedom and the freedom of his mother.

Gabriel eventually earns his freedom and builds his life producing uniforms for soldiers and suits for men who want only the best. Annie works as a seamstress and does laundry. When Gabriel meets Mary, a runaway slave, they marry. The family also begins to help other slaves escape to freedom. But just when they think everything is working out for them, they discover that their children (born of free parents) might in fact, belong to their former master, Jonathan Ridley.

Clarke's story is compelling and fraught with brutal injustice, hope, redemption, joy and sadness. It's a harsh, yet beautiful story. There were brief moments when I felt the writing was a bit flat and left me wanting for some deeper emotion-but then Clarke rose to the occasion and delivered far more than I expected.

Armchair Interviews says: Stand the Storm is a must read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. Warmbier on September 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The book starts out well enough -- a story about a slave family that struggles to purchase their own freedom. The most unfortunate part of the book is that the climax of the story occurs quite early. At that point I begain to wonder, with the central conflict so quickly resolved, where's the story going to go? The answer: nowhere. The book meanders through the lives of the Coats family without any clear direction.
The book does have some redeeming qualities, however. Clark is a talented writer with a creative style and eloquent prose. Nonetheless, without a central conflict to drive the story forward, the book becomes quickly boring.
By the end I found myself simply not caring about the main characters. On top of that, when I finished the book, I found myself quite angry. I'd rather have Gabriel, the main character, die as a soldier fighting in the Civil War. Instead he comes to a far less interesting end.
It all comes down to storytelling. Clark is certainly a talented writer, but she could use some practice with basic storytelling techniques.I think I finished the book more out of spite than interest.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
Set from the mid-1850's to about 1870, Breena Clarke's historical novel "Stand the Storm" (2008) tells the story of a persevering African American family that through its own efforts makes the difficult path from slavery to freedom. The story begins in southern Maryland on a plantation owned by one Jonathan Ridley. The primary characters are a woman known as Sewing Annie, who as her name implies is renowned for her skill with the needle, her son Gabriel, and her daughter Ellen. Gabriel is the pride of Annie and inherits much of her talent. Ellen, the younger child, also is gifted at the sewing and embroidering craft, but the mother's heart belongs predominantly to her son.

The book moves between the plantation and Georgetown and Washington. (During the time of the story, Georgetown was a separate municipality from Washington, D.C.) When Gabriel is a child, Ridley hires him out to a tailor in Georgetown, Abraham Pearl, who is reluctant to use slave labor but needs the help. Over the course of years, Gabriel learns the business. He determines to free himself, his mother, and his sister from bondage. With Annie's help, Gabriel is able to save money to purchase his family's freedom from the conniving and dishonest Ridley. The family takes the surname of "Coats" due to their skills as tailors. With the impending war and the influx of people into Washington, the hardworking Coats family achieves a degree of economic success in their business as tailors, embroiderers, and laundresses. The purchase of family freedom occurs relatively early in the novel, but it is only the beginning of the family's troubles.

Besides telling the story of a difficult freedom, Clarke's novel also explores the family and sexual dynamics of the Coats'.
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