Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Review: Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
Rating: 4/5

While reading this novel, I often thought about what I learned about slavery in school and the many films I've seen on the subject, most notably, the television series Roots , which is probably most of our first visual representation of a slaves' life – but I thought, "Noooo, they got it wrong! Slavery was 50 times worst than any representation I've ever seen on a film."

Solomon Northup, was a free born, African America man living in New York state in the early 1800s. He had a wife, three children, and was able to provide for his family working various jobs, depending on the season. Solomon is kidnapped and forced into slavery for 12 years, in the deep south.

What makes this novel so compelling is his story telling. He goes into great detail explaining what is feels like to be a slave; the constant state of fear (scared of waking up late, scared of not working fast enough, scared of being in the wrong place at the wrong time if your master is in an angry mood), the whippings (which happened more often than I originally thought), the brutal labor, the little food (yet being forced to work at 100% at all times with little nourishment), and the depressing feeling of being separated from your family (being sold to another master was the worst nightmare of most slaves, more fearful than the whip). His prose paints a clear picture of what it feels like to be a slave.

I highly recommend this non-fiction novel (did I mention, this is a TRUE story) to any and everyone interested in American or African American history.

This novel is currently being made into a film by director Steve McQueen, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender. I have to admit, I am very eager to see this film (it's slated for release Sept. 6, 2013) because I'm curious to see if they will be true to the original work, and go hard and showcase slavery in its most brutal form, even if it will make audiences uncomfortable, because as time goes on, I think we forget how truly horrible an institution slavery was.

NOTE: I wrote this review before the movie was released. The film was excellent!


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