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My Jim: A Novel Hardcover – January 11, 2005

4.7 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her spare, moving retelling of the story of escaped slave Jim from Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Rawles shifts the focus to Jim's wife, Sadie, whose unspeakable losses set the tone for Jim's flight. Trained as a healer, Sadie helps bring Jim into the world when she herself is "no higher than a barrel." As they grow up together on Mas Watson's Missouri plantation, Jim only has eyes for Sadie, and after an informal marriage following their daughter Lizbeth's birth, they consider fleeing together. Their plans change when Mas Watson dies, and Sadie is taken by a hateful neighbor while Jim is kept on by Mas Watson's daughter. Jim finally escapes on his own, but is presumed dead when his hat is found floating in the Mississippi. After countless tribulations, Sadie meets up again with Jim, who has ventured down the Mississippi with Huck Finn in the meantime, but the pair are not reunited. Further disappointment comes after emancipation, when Sadie learns that freedom looks an awful lot like slavery. Writing in sonorous slave dialect, Rawles creates a memorable protagonist in Sadie and builds on Twain's portrayal of Jim while remaining true to the original.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Rawles turns an American classic on its head with this story of Sadie Watson, the wife Jim left behind when he joined Huck Finn on his adventure down the Mississippi. As a child, Sadie helps deliver Jim in a tobacco field. Her mother, the midwife, comforts his mother, "This baby might buy you freedom, one day." As an adult, Jim is obsessed with that freedom, but his schemes are continually thwarted. Once he and Sadie "jump the broom," he refuses to leave without his family. Circumstances change when their master, Watson, dies and Sadie and her children are sold. When Jim tries to visit her, he is caught and beaten, and finally runs away. His hat is found floating on the Mississippi, and he is feared drowned. Sadie, however, never gives up hoping for his return. My Jim is a love story. But it is also a vivid portrayal of Jim's other life–harsh at times, poignant at others. Even young adults unfamiliar with Huckleberry Finn's companion will find Rawles's tale moving and real. The author creates a heartbreaking world where farewells to husbands, wives, and children are common.–Patricia Bangs, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Publishers; First Edition edition (January 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400054001
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400054008
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,594,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dera R Williams VINE VOICE on January 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
My Jim is an imaginative take on the fictional Jim of Huckleberry Finn lore. Nancy Rawles, a writer and history teacher, took issue with the way the highly controversial book by Mark Twain was portrayed in the schools in Seattle, her adopted town. She began researching which included a trip to Hannibal, Missouri where Hick Finn takes place and years of reviewing slave narratives and the slavery culture. Rawles constructed her story around a passage in Huck Finn that expressed Jim's desire for freedom for himself and his family. Taking literary license, she tells the story through the eyes of Jim's wife, Sadie, as she relays her memories of the man she loved to her granddaughter who is contemplating marriage as they piece a quilt over a twelve-day period.

Sadie was at the birth of Jim, toting water for the midwife. She was barely high as a barrel but the life of a slave child was so that they began toiling from the time they were able to grasp a cup. Sadie and Jim lived on Mas Watson's plantation in Missouri. Sadie watched Jim grow as she also watched the people she loved leave her either through death or by being sold away never to be seen again. In rich details the hard life of back-breaking labor and the beatings endured by the slaves is meticulously told. Slaves were no more than cattle, scratching for food just to survive and for mating and producing more slaves for the master. The most ragged of apparel was hard to come by to keep themselves clothed and they had to condition themselves not show pain when their children were sold away from them.
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Format: Hardcover
What higher compliment can we pay an author in that their characters become real to us and take us places we've never been. In this case, hard places full of despair.

Rawles drew on extensive reading of slave narratives to create "My Jim." The dialect the story's written in makes reading difficult for the first few pages, but it is possible to begin to comprehend what's happening.

Then, you're lost.

The central character in this story is Sadie, the wife of escaped slave Jim from Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn." Sadie tells her story to her grand-daughter as she prepares a quilt for the girl to take with her when she moves West.

"Ain't nothing on this place belongs to you," Sadie's Master tells her when he takes Sadie's daughter, Lizbeth to be his kitchen maid and sex slave. "My Jim" is full of harsh truths, and tells more of the times than Twain's tale.

I strongly recommend this book for teachers, students of Black History. You can proudly sit it on your shelf next to Twain's work. I do believe "My Jim" will be just as enduring.
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Format: Hardcover
In MY JIM, as Sadie, a former slave, and her granddaughter, Marianne, piece together a quilt, Sadie pieces together her own story, gradually revealing the history of the items she has kept for years in a canning jar: a small knife, a piece of felt, the bottom of a clay bowl, a child's tooth, a shiny gold button, and a corn pipe thick with tar. The contents of the jar represent a lifetime of misery, pain, heartache, and survival.

"I gives you my first heart Marianne. The heart I gots for my mama. And the heart I gots for my Jim." In those few words, Rawles lets the main character, Sadie, tell us her stark truth: To survive a brutal life that would drive some to suicide or madness, Sadie has allowed few people into her "first heart." Living as a slave, Sadie learns quickly that friends, family, even your own children, can be wrenched from you with no warning. But Jim enters a young Sadie's "first heart" on the day he is born and lives in it always; his love for her, her love for him, and the hope of his return carry Sadie through years of soul-deadening losses.

Rawles writes simply, relating the most gut-wrenching scenes with control and reserve, with a matter-of-factness that serves to underscore the fact that Sadie's losses were not uncommon but rather a fact of life for a person in bondage. As I read MY JIM, I wondered about the other Sadies and Jims that walked this earth, knowing that this story isn't the story of one but of many.

I finished the book with tears forming, a weight on my chest, and admiration for the writing of Nancy Rawles. She has produced a work of art.
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Format: Hardcover
What a fantastic idea...Rawles takes us to the mid-1800s and shows us the world through the eyes of a young slave woman who happens to be the one true love of "Jim," the character made famous through Mark Twain's classic, "Huckleberry Finn." Twain's fiction introduced me to subjects of slavery and prejudice and friendship. Rawles' story takes us much deeper into the same areas.

"My Jim" is sparse, yet powerful. The writing is raw, yet beautiful. Nancy Rawles pens a story that sounds as convincing as any I've encountered. When I read "The Bondwoman's Narrative" a few years back, I expected a tale with this sort of impact. Rawles uses subtle symbolism, brevity of words, and universal themes to remind us of the horrors of slavery--whether it be mental, physical, or emotional. She weaves in the elements of Jim's story without waying down Sadie's. Love and hope are given moments to sparkle amidst the abuse and suffering of Sadie's life. Sadie, serving as narrator throughout most of the book, proves that she has stayed strong and true, passing on this hope to a fearful granddaughter.

With this short but masterful novel, Rawles does her part to continue the circle of learning.
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