Monday, September 22, 2014

Twice a Slave: The Joseph Willis Story

Twice a Slave

Being part Native American- Cherokee and Cheyenne if the family lore can be trusted- I was raised on Indian tales.

Every time we went to the library, or the used bookstore, my mother scoured the shelves for Indian books.

My favorites were the vivid ones, tales woven around core of truth with real history that teaches us something.
The very best were written with finely imagined characters and attention to detail as their heartbeat, separating living stories from fleshless nonfiction.

When I saw the cover of Twice a Slave, I knew I wanted to read this one too.
This book is the story of one man, the twists and turns that his life took, and the legacy he left. Joseph Willis was a real person, and one of his relatives has written this "biographical novel" to preserve the essence of his life.

This was a well paced read, the kind that carries you along in the telling. There are a great deal of genuine historical people and places to read about, and this history lesson is made memorable because of the human actors living it out.

There is Joseph himself, the badly mistreated child who was neither white nor Indian. There was his dearest friend Ezekiel, who fought beside him as a Patriot in the Revolutionary War. There was love Joseph found in his wife and children, and the mourning he experienced when he lost those dearest to him.

I think the person I loved best in this book was Joseph's own mother. Since the day colonists arrived the Indians were considered filthy and pagan, sometimes even called soulless. Yet it was Joseph's Cherokee mother who lived her faith so truly, so gently, that she sowed the seeds in her son's heart and their growth was slow but sure.

After finishing this book, I ended up reading Lisa Wingate's The Storykeeper, and then Ruth's Redemption by Marlene Banks, and then A Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick. If you're looking for some solid history (Native American and African-American and Melungeon history) then you should try these four novels.

Thank you very much to, Fred and Nora St. Laurent, for my review copy.

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