Rhodes’ book elegantly chronicles the hope of one 10-year-old girl seeking a bigger world in post–Civil War America.
When Chinese laborers arrive, Sugar finally believes in a world beyond River Road Plantation. In 1870, five years after the Emancipation Proclamation, many former slaves remain on their plantations—only now working for a bleak slave wage. Sugar was born into slavery on a sugar plantation and still lives there, feeling constricted and anything but free. To the complicated relationship she enjoys with the plantation owner’s son, Billy, is added another, with newly arrived “Chinamen” Bo/Beau and Master Liu. Most Americans are aware of the brutality of slavery, but few stop to consider that the abolition of slavery created a new turmoil for former slaves. How would they make a living? Rhodes exposes the reality of post–Civil War economics, when freed slaves vacated plantations, leaving former slave masters with a need for labor. In doing so, she illuminates a little-known aspect of the Reconstruction Era, when Chinese immigrants were encouraged to come to America and work alongside ex-slaves. Her prose shines, reading with a spare lyricism that flows naturally. All Sugar’s hurt, longing, pain and triumph shine through.
A magical story of hope from Coretta Scott King Honor winner Rhodes. (Historical fiction. 8-12)