THE FREEDOM BUSINESS by Marilyn Nelson
Kirkus Star

THE FREEDOM BUSINESS

by , illustrated by
Age Range: 13 & up

KIRKUS REVIEW

An astonishing, heartbreaking cycle of poems is set in counterpoint against the slave narrative that inspired them. Venture Smith, born Broteer Furro in Guinea, was captured and enslaved at the age of six and brought to America in 1738. Moving from one master to another, he eventually bought his own freedom, that of his wife and children and a handful of other enslaved men, becoming a prosperous Connecticut landowner in the process. His narrative, published in 1798, appears continuously on the left-hand page of each spread; Nelson’s luminous poems appear on the right. Both are thrown into relief by Dancy’s mixed-media artwork, which includes images of birds, ropes, chains and blood to heighten the visceral emotions of both texts. Nelson writes in Venture’s voice: “Breath, dreams, pulse, traded for cloth and alcohol, / were capital. There was profit in the pain, / the chains. Venture. There were whole worlds to gain.” Painfully, readers see how commerce governed Venture’s life even after he was “freed,” struggling always for his humanity against the spiritual chains put in place by the twisted economy that shaped him. Tragic, important, breathtaking. (author’s, artist’s notes) (Poetry. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-932425-57-4
Page count: 72pp
Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2008




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