HANG A THOUSAND TREES WITH RIBBONS: The Story of Phillis Wheatley by Ann Rinaldi

HANG A THOUSAND TREES WITH RIBBONS: The Story of Phillis Wheatley

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The short and not very happy life of America's first black poet, brought to vibrant life by Rinaldi (The Blue Door, p. 1241, etc.). Keziah is kidnapped from her village in Senegal in 1761 and handed over to a notorious slave trader for transport to America. She is brought to Boston, where she is purchased by the Wheatley family, who rename her Phillis after the ship on which she arrived. Nathaniel, the son and potential heir to the substantial Wheatley estate, becomes intrigued by the slave's intellect, and teaches her to read and write, then tutoring her in the Latin and Greek classics. Phillis's gift for writing poetry impresses the Wheatleys and their guests at their frequent soirees, but no American publisher will print her work; she is sent to England, where she is published to great acclaim. She is grudgingly granted freedom upon her return to Boston, but it does not bring the happiness she expected: She is unprepared to be on her own. A disastrous marriage ends with the deaths of her children and her own death at 30, and she is buried in a pauper's grave. A powerful portrait of an innocent who, uprooted from her world, enters another where she is allowed to rise above the average slave's lot; Rinaldi makes clear to readers that Wheatley's good fortune is a double-edged sword that destroys her. A tragic tale, beautifully written and researched.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 015205393X
Page count: 338pp
Publisher: Gulliver/Harcourt Brace