Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates

Title: Amos Fortune, Free Man
Author: Elizabeth Yates
Genre: YA / Historical Fiction
Publisher: Puffin
Published: 1950
Pages: 192

Rating - 4 out of 10

Amos is raised as the prince of an African tribe, until he is one day kidnapped by slave traders. In 18th Century Massachusetts, he lives in slavery for nearly the rest of his life, always remembering his proud heritage and the freedom that he once had. Finally, as an elderly man, he is able to regain his freedom.

This simply written story, based on true events, chronicles the life and hardships of one man before and after he is released from slavery. I thought that this book was a bit too abruptly written and factual, never revealing much of Amos Fortune's feelings or emotions, but it was still relatively well drawn.

Something that I strongly noticed about this book was its view of racism. The narrative voice of Amos also seems not to view slavery as an evil, but rather as the way of the world, which he was simply unfortunate enough to get caught up in. Despite of course yearning for his freedom, he also defends slavery and slave owners. At one point, Amos even expresses gratitude that he was kidnapped and brought to slavery, because his native tribe was (gasp) pagan and savage, and now he gets to learn about God and see technology that he would have never known about otherwise. When he requests his freedom from a slave-owning couple that he is particularly close to and addresses as his "friends," they instead sell him at an auction. Instead of recognize this as a betrayal, Amos gladly accepts this turn of events and hopes that the money his so called "friends" make on selling him will be helpful to them.

All in all, this is a book on slavery written in 1950 by a white woman, and her viewpoint shows this clearly. I can imagine white people reading this book to their children in 1950, while I cannot imagine African American women doing the same.
Well intended, but not entirely successful.