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MARITCHA by Tonya Bolden


A Nineteenth-Century American Girl

by Tonya Bolden

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-8109-5045-6
Publisher: Abrams

A serious-looking 12-year-old girl looks out at the reader from a sepia-toned cover photograph: The “American Girl” of the subtitle was African-American, a member of New York’s black middle class. Piecing together her unpublished memoir and contemporary accounts of life in mid-19th-century New York, Bolden tells Maritcha Rémond Lyons’s story. Her father was an activist on the local level and had formed relationships with many of the prominent African-Americans in New York, giving the young Maritcha a bounty of role models. After the New York City Draft Riots, the Lyons family moved to Providence, where a determined Maritcha became the first African-American to graduate from Providence High School. Lavish illustrations from the period embellish the tale, which excels in its focus on the telling detail: Lost in the riots were “Maritcha’s poplin, organdie, and French calico dresses; six muslin skirts, [and] a pair of kid gloves. . . . ” Although Maritcha comes across as something of a stuffed shirt—her prose is distinctly Victorian in flavor—her story provides a valuable glimpse into a history largely forgotten. (notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 8-12)