A GIRL CALLED BOY by Belinda Hurmence
Kirkus Star


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A strong, unusual tale of time travel, with a young black girl as distinctive as Tough Tiffany, into the slavery past she rejects in the present. Blanche Overton Yancey would rather be called Boy than be reminded of the ancestors for whom she's named; on a picnic in the Smokies, she's discomfitted by her father's little soapstone ""freedom bird"" and his proud talk of ""those tough old slaves."" Then, off exploring, she says to the soapstone carving sarcastically, ""Take me over the water"". . . and, once across the creek, the familiar valley looks different, the sky looks like snow. Boy, lost, bangs on the door of a hut. The occupants, big gruff Ike and his gentle son Isaac, take her for ""Yancey's boy,"" run away from his master. And she is--as it will only gradually dawn on her--in 1853. With Ike and Isaac, she experiences deprivation and fear. At a larger plantation they all flee to, she is taken into the ""chilluns' house"" and marvels at the simple plentitude: ""This poverty wasn't boring! The people were all doing interesting things--cooking, making music, joking, whittling."" A woman who's a good ""breeder"" explains why she doesn't resent her lot: she's proud of her children, regretful only that always having a ""basket baby"" prevents her from trying to escape. Then, separated from Ike and Isaac, Boy ""returns"" to the patrician Yanceys--where Mrs. Yancey coddles her and treats her like a pet. ""There were some things about slavery,"" she has to admit, ""that didn't bother her at all--having her food and shelter provided, for instance, and feeling secure. . . ."" But: ""What had become of her pride?"" So she takes off again, to find her own relations, and meets up with the doughty, storytelling Lookup. . . who turns out to be (in the book's only real fictional contrivance) Ike's lost wife and Isaac's mother. And, when she offers them the chance, they decline to come ""over the water"" with her, to the present. A cross-section of slave life, with no social-science didacticism; and a revelation for Boy, with no preachment.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1982
ISBN: 0618689257
Publisher: Clarion/Houghton Mifflin