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Draper, Sharon. Copper Sun.

DRAPER, Sharon. Copper sun. Simon & Schuster. 308p. c2006. 0-689-82181-6. $16.95. S

In the classic The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois, speaking of the slaves' sorrow songs, writes, "Through all of the Sorrow Songs there breathes a hope--a faith in the ultimate justice of things." This premise is suggested in Copper Sun, the story of 15-year-old Amira's enslavement and journey to freedom. Purchased as a gift for Clay Derby, Amira's primary purpose is to satisfy him sexually by night and physically as a laborer by day. An excerpt from Harlem Renaissance poet Countee Cullen's poem, "Heritage," opens the novel, bringing to mind one of his earliest books of poetry, Copper Sun, while illuminating the book's theme: what is Africa to me? Quite graphic at times and perhaps a difficult read for some (as is Gary Paulsen's Night-john), the atrocities emphasized (e.g., rape, murder, torture) are necessary to convey key questions posed in the novel: How do we understand the resilience of American slaves? How was the treatment of slaves, white women, and poor whites similar, yet different? How does slavery impact contemporary America?

Scholars of African American literature argue that authors of contemporary novels about slavery have certain literary freedoms that authors of actual slave narratives did not, as the former were encouraged to write stories that would be endorsed by abolitionists. Draper charters territory few traditional slave narratives dared when she explores a consenting sexual relationship between the Derby mistress and her "bodyguard" that results in the birth of a black daughter, depicts the cook as more than willing to poison her owners when they threaten to sell her only child, and troubles the assumption that all white women were "free."

Already being compared to Roots, this novel is best suited for mature YA readers, and accompanied by discussions about early African culture and sensibility, acts of resistance executed by slaves (alone and in partnerships with indentured servants), and abolitionist efforts. Kaa Vonia Hinton, Ph.D., Old Dominion Univ., Norfolk, VA
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Author:Hinton, Kaa Vonia
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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