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12 Years a Slave
Format: Paperback|Change
Price:$9.98+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on October 12, 2013
As slave stories go, this one is, in my view, without peer. Northup's s captivating tale -- which has gained attention because of the movie that shares the book's title -- is told in exacting detail with an easy prose. He sets the stage masterfully, describing people and places before proceeding into the narrative. Unlike works of fiction, this book is so compelling because, by all accounts, it is true. There is no polemical axe to grind, as with Uncle Tom (a novel at one point wryly referenced by Northup). Here you see both the brutality of slavery and the moments of kindness by slaves and even some slave owners. Solomon tells the story with clarity and intelligence.

The free versions on other sites I found were pretty poorly formatted, so spending a dollar for a polished version on Amazon is worthwhile, but this one is not the best of them. Granted, the book is formatted adequately, and any typographical errors in this version seem to be simple reproductions of the original.

However, the supporting material is a letdown. I read the version that includes the introduction by novelist Dolen Perkins-Valdez. That introduction is borderline insulting, as it makes only a weak attempt to separate accounts with fictional elements like Roots from an authentic account like this one. Worse still, Perkins-Valdez can't resist indulging in repeatedly referencing her own recently released slave novel, even going so far as to quote herself. There are almost no historical elements to this version beyond the main book -- no mention of Northup after the book, no mention of he writer who helped him pen the book, nothing. There is more information on the writer of the introduction than there is the author. One other oddity worth mentioning: the original book's preface -- the one done by the man who helped Northup write the book -- has been curiously excised from this version too. That makes this version something less than complete.

For those looking for a better version, you might consider Twelve Years a Slave - Enhanced Edition by Dr. Sue Eakin Based on a Lifetime Project. New Info, Images, Maps, which contains a robust amount of supporting material and, better still, is right now the same cost as this version.
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on October 17, 2013
Growing up in the North,I had always found it hard to imagine that slavery not only existed in this country,but flourished.Through the years,I have read many an autobiography or history book concerning slavery and thought I knew it all. And yet I was blind.
Until I read Solomon Northrup's "12 Years a Slave." Where has this book been? It is a masterpiece of history,of one man,one free man's life. A true picture of 'The Old South'.
Mr. Northrup was a free black man with a beautiful wife and two daughters living in Saratoga,NY. He was lured from his home by slave traders who specialized in the awful practice of kidnapping free black citizens and selling them into slavery. Torn from his home and family,Mr.Northrup endured the worst that can happen to a human being,and still live.
And yet,he remained fair and honest,never stooping to the level some of his white masters did.
I am not going to rewrite the book in this review because I recommend reading it for yourself. Slavery was and is a vile institution.
Solomon Northrup is my new inspiration.
This book will shock you. But you will be the better for having read it.
My highest of fives.
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on November 14, 2013
The simplicity of his reflections in this journal open a window to the culture of slavery and racism that is unique and memorable. He uses understated language which makes each event all the more vivid. His candor about the experience of bondage and what it does to a free man is remarkable. His insight into thoughts of slaveholders ring true. This book was written more than 150 years ago and is an easy read. Mr Northrup was an exceptional man. We are lucky to have his words today.
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on January 24, 2014
I ordered this book after seeing the movie by the same name. I was afraid it might be redundant, but it was not. The movie allowed the viewer to see the experience of Solomon Northrup's kidnapping and 12 year bondage as a slave in the 1850's. The book allowed the reader to hear Northrup's thoughts and feelings about those experiences. A freedman living a secure life in upstate NY, Northrup was torn away by slave traders. Forced to hide his ability to read and write from his captors, after his liberation, he ultimately uses those skills to share his experience of slavery with generations of Americans brought up blind to the reality that was foundational to our early history....and haunting us still. Northrup's narrative is a matter of fact, unsensationalized, and a far more charitable description than the horrific events would reasonably call for. Should be required reading in US schools.
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on February 6, 2014
This book is so interesting and informative. I found that I knew not nearly as much of that era of (slavery and emancipation) as I had assumed that I did. My husband had purchased the Kindle version of 12 Years a Slave but the one that I purchased had several other stories as well. Twelve Years A Slave is about Solomon Northrup, who was born as a free person, but was duped into going on tour with two charlatans and sold into slavery. (Don't want to spoil the story so will stop here.) Other stories included were: Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe; Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglas; Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, byHarriet Jacobs and also true; and Up From Slavery: An Autobiography by Booker T. Washington which was actually my favorite book. He was born into slavery and was a child when slavery ended. Booker T. Washington was a brilliant humanitarian who lived through a terrible time in the History of the United States of America and he definitely left a lasting legacy through his many kind deeds and the school system that he founded in Tuskeegee, Alabama.
This book was about the same cost as the single book "12 Years a Slave". This is a great read and if you buy the Kindle version look for the cover that has the lock an chain on the front page. It is the version this the extra books. Enjoy, learn and weep!
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on February 4, 2017
I can say from experience that bigotry is still alive in this region. I can feel the hate and distrust in the gaze of African Americans upon me because I am white. Although it feels undeserved, after first feeling resentment, and after a moment of reflection, my resentment turns, not toward those who gaze upon me, but towards the white forebears that perpetrated these incredibly evil crimes against humanity. Like the German sons and daughters of Nazi criminals, bearing the same looks from Jews, the legacy we are left with is the mark of Cain. Our white skin betrays us as the progeny of some of the most evil people to have lived in the last two centuries on this planet. If you are white and American, until you can truly accept this reality, you cannot console yourself by claiming that "it's all in the past".
If you ask yourself "well what can I do about it now?" It is simply this; endure the gazes, even the thinly veiled animosity, with humblness and fortitude.
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on February 20, 2014
“If they don't know as much as their masters, whose fault is it? They are not allowed to know anything. You have books and papers, and can go where you please, and gather intelligence in a thousand ways. But your slaves have no privileges. You'd whip one of them if caught reading a book. They are held in bondage, generation after generation, deprived of mental improvement, and who can expect them to possess much knowledge?”

Reading about slavery from Northup's perspective was quite insightful because he was born free. It felt like he was soaking in every detail from the landscape to the nature and personalities of the other slaves so that he tell this story. Being without pen and paper during his 12 years of slavery did not hinder Northup's memory. I appreciated the details even though most were painful to read.

"Truly, Patsey was a splendid animal, and were it not that bondage had enshrouded her intellect in utter and everlasting darkness, would have been chief among ten thousand of her people."

After viewing the movie based on this book, I could not wait to read Northup's actual narrative about Patsey played by the actress Lupita Nyong'o. Patsey was known by her master as Queen of the Field because she could pick 500lbs of cotton a day. She was a tortured soul and only 23 years old {per Northup's documentation}. It makes my heart glad that this slave who was treated so brutally and only praised for her labor is now known of by people all over the world. Epps nor the mistress could not stop the power of the written word.

Patsey you made it. Slavery did not keep you bound. That evil institution did not keep your story from us. Northup gave you your freedom by writing your story. You are more than the Queen of the Field you are the Queen of our Hearts. I will never forget you.

Another remarkable woman of this narrative was the slave, Celeste. Her cunningness was inspiring. She evaded the dogs. They refused to follow her tracks. Knowing something about the area that Northup writes from, Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana, I can only speculate that Celeste may have dabbled in "roots." She ran away and stayed in the woods for months. When the terror from the beasts of the swamps overwhelmed her she returned to her master. He fastened her neck in stocks and sent her back to the fields.

Celeste your spirit of courage and determination was not lost. Other women put it on such as Ida B. Wells and Fannie Lou Hamer. The stocks did not bind your spirit you found us.

Personally, I think the only thing Solomon Northup had to get him through those twelve years was his music. Had he not gotten to play and travel to play I believe slavery would have stolen him from his family and us forever.
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on May 31, 2016
Most people have seen the movie based on this book, it only tells part of the story.

Solomon Northup tells a gripping tale of his time in slavery. He gives an honest portrayal of highs and lows... mostly lows... after being kidnapped and forced to live as a slave after spending the start of his life as a freeman. The son of a freed slave pulls no punches as he discusses the horrors of life as a slave. But he admits that there were some owners who were quite compassionate with their slaves.

The movie leaves out so much, such as how he was forced to be the proxy and whip his fellow slaves. The tales of how various slaves were killed when trying to escape. The third person narrative of the movie hides the first person experience of Solomon.

The language of the time makes the book a little difficult to follow at times, but eventually you can come around.

One of the more interesting aspects which is not touched on in the movie is the travel of Solomon's correspondence to his friends back in New York. For 2 years, has family didn't know why or where he'd gone, as they'd been away when he left and he expected to return before they did. When the first letter arrived, they only knew he'd been kidnapped but no idea where he was. Even 10 years later as another letter is sent, it's purely by chance that they were able to find the man who sent the letter on his behalf.

Solomon could have died a slave multiple times. His intelligence and resource kept him alive. It's no life for anyone but he figured out how to survive. For so many others, it was the only life they'd ever known.
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on March 22, 2016
When I read a "classic" I always like to look at old newspapers to see what reviews looked like when it was first printed - one of my favorites for this one was from the "New York Independent" and copied in the "Green-Mountain Freeman" of Vermont, Sept. 1, 1853:

"Let it be read by all those good easy souls who think slavery is, on the whole, a good thing. Let it be read by all who think although slavery is politically and economically a bad thing, it id not very bad for thr slaves. Let it be read by all those M. C.' and supporters who are always ready to give their votes in aid of Slavery and the slave trade with all the kidnapping inseparable from it. Let it be read, too, by our Southern friends who pity with so much christian sensibility the wretched condition of the free negroes at the north, and rejoice at the enviable condition of their own slaves."

I've been meaning to read the actual book since first seeing the movie - the film actually holds very close to his account and any artistic decisions made in the film in terms of consolidation, etc., do not compromise the original story, in my opinion. Northup was a remarkable man - observant, talented, loving, and strong. This is the second slave narrative I've read (Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was the first) - they make for very affecting reading and contemplation. I do hope t read the annotated Eakin/Logsdon version in the future. There are some thrilling parts that did not make it into the film - including his brief escape into the alligator- and snake-infested swamps of the locale in which he was held in bondage. Until you read about the treatment of abolition-minded folks in the South, you can;t appreciate the real risks that Bass took in expressing his opinion and communicating w/ the North on Solomon's behalf - it was heroic. But Solomon's struggle and maintenance of hope is even more so. The description of the beatings, exploitation, slave markets, etc., are unsparing in their detail.

Highly recommended.
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on January 5, 2018
Some parts were very good. Its never pleasant to hear horror stories about slavery. I'm sorry it was ever allowed and i wish all wounds from it and racism to be healed. I had to wonder at a former slave gushing over a slave owner, Miss McCoy, whoever that was. I imagine some were better than others but gushing over her seemed strange and excessive. She owned one hundred slaves I believed it said. I can't imagine her being that great. I wondered why it was written in the book. That's a large reason I gave it three stars. Otherwise it was a pretty good read. What an embarrassing time. I'm glad it is over. Imagine if white people are legally enslaved someday. God help us.
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