Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Come Juneteenth (YA)

Come Juneteenth. Ann Rinaldi. 2007. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 256 pages.

From the prologue: Last night when the fire burned low, when the last of the sweet potatoes under the logs was just a crisp fragrance left of our supper, long after my brother Gabriel had taken his last swig from the flask in his haversack and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and turned over in his bedroll on the other side of the fire and grunted his good night, last night I lay awake long and unblinking in the spark-filled distance above me. 

From chapter one: I was in the pumpkin patch, counting the ones that were good enough for Old Pepper Apron, our cook, to make into bread.

Secrets. Lies. Lives torn apart. Not by the Freedom War, the War Between the States, the Civil War. But by lies told during those years by masters to their slaves. Come Juneteenth is set in Texas in 1865. Texas slaveholders--like our heroine's father--were able to keep Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation secret. For two years. Out of necessity? Out of greed? Out of fear? Out of hate or anger? Perhaps we'll never know all the reasons. Luli, our heroine, has struggled with this secret. So has her brother, Gabriel, for both care--in VERY different ways--for Sis Goose, a slave woman who is legally a slave--owned by the family's aunt, but someone who has been raised--since she was a baby--as a member of the family. Luli considers her a sister--an older sister. The two have been very close at times. Though growing up has changed some things. And Gabriel? Well, he's very much in love with Sis Goose. He plans on marrying her and living happily ever after. After, you know, he gets back from fighting the Indians. So when the truth does come out, when the slaves are freed, when the Yankees arrive, well, Sis Goose feels hurt and betrayed and very angry by the family she's loved. 

Come Juneteenth is dramatic and intense. The story is told in flashes by Luli. The transitions between past and present can be tricky, but, for the most part, I liked it.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Anna and Serena said...

I'm going to be reading an Ann Rinaldi book for the challenge, and if I like it, I'll have to get this one, too. You're review will be featured on War Through the Generations on July 17. Sorry I missed it when you first posted it!


Miss K said...

I just finished this novel and was surprised by how serious it was. I'd never read Ann Rinaldi before, so was expecting something different. That said, I really enjoyed the novel and will be seeking out more by her!

QNPoohBear said...

This was one of her better newer novels but there was that point towards the end that was just so shocking I couldn't believe it.