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The Bondwoman's Narrative by Hannah Crafts
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The Bondwoman's Narrative

by Hannah Crafts, Henry Louis Gates Jr. (Editor)

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» See also 20 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
historically, this is 5 stars. it's super interesting - both the context that gates puts this into and all of the research that goes into determining when this was written and who the author was (like dating the ink and paper) - and hugely important if this truly is not just the "first novel written by a female fugitive slave, [but] perhaps the first novel written by any black woman at all." i also thought it was really interesting the way he kept her edits and strikeouts in the text, so we could see how she composed as she went along.

the narration i give 2.5 stars as the story (while so important and moving) is choppy and sometimes oddly focused on tangential stories rather than the main one. (some of these things gates helps me understand is from the author's reading of romantic or gothic stories of the time, which is helpful information.) i'm glad i read this and what a major find it was for gates, and i'm glad that an autobiographical novel written by a woman can be added to the slave narratives that actually detail what slave life was like. and i'm glad that it wasn't edited by a contemporary (white) person, to make it something different. (although had it been, i might have liked the reading experience better.)

"We thought our master must be a very great man to have so much wealth at his command, but it never occurred to us to inquire whose sweat and blood and unpaid labor had contributed to produce it." ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Jul 24, 2018 |
This book is the first book written by an ex-slave. It gives an inside view to the nasty institution of slavery. The book is very interesting and very sad. It makes your heart wrench thinking of the hopelessness of Hannah's situation. It also sheds light on a woman who was of mixed race and raised white, who had no idea of her origin of birth. When a nasty man finds out and blackmails her, it drives her mad. The thinking of the day was one drop of Black blood made you Black. It made no difference how you looked or if your father was white. It is a really amazing book. Hannah Crafts was a self taught read er and writer and she did an amazing job getting her story across. ( )
  sadiekaycarver | May 7, 2013 |
Professor Gates relates how he came to have the manuscript of this novel , how he traced the possible authors of the manuscript and notes show the historians efforts to validate the time and place of the writing.Analysis of the type of paper and ink, style of handwriting and the authors rather romantic, effusive style (reminds one of Dickens) also place the novel in the attested time period. Gates' end notes are quite interestiing.

The plot which involves the story of a young slave girl, her mistress and the difficulties encountered in being sold, escape to freedom and the stories of the unfortunate fate of children of white owners and black servants.
  JuneBug1 | Jul 7, 2012 |
My review from July 8, 2002:

This was the most fascinating book that I've read in ... well, I don't know how long! THE BONDWOMAN'S NARRATIVE is a fictionalized yet seemingly autobiographical slave narrative written by Hannah Crafts somewhere between 1856-1860. Hannah delves into the the mind and heart of a slave by telling the story of a young woman's personal experiences.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who chairs the Department of African American Studies at Harvard University, came across this hand-written manuscript at an auction for African American artifacts. He then embarked upon an amazing research project which explored the author's identity. From scientific analysis of the manuscript (handwriting, ink, paper quality, etc) to actual genealogical research (census reports, etc.), Professor Gates attempts to prove that Hannah Crafts was indeed the first African-American woman to write such a narrative. ...This is part of the book is intriguing although I do have one word of advice here - READ THE NARRATIVE FIRST! If you read the Introduction first, you will know much of the story before actually reading it (in his discussion, he gives away the ending!). By reading the narrative first, I found that I was able to reach some of my own conclusions before reading those of Professor Gates and I better understood the informative analysis!

I usually don't read books more than once but I would read this one again! ( )
  KindleKapers | Apr 21, 2011 |
Excerpt from www.HomeGirl.typepad.com
The novel d'audio is really interesting. Strange though, 'cause I'm sure I'd enjoHannahcrafts_5y it more if I got to make up the voices of the characters in my head. You know what I mean? It's kinda spoiled it for me a little...like seeing the movie before reading the book. I feel like I still want to actually read the book for the full effect. Plus the lady who's telling the story is quite obviously from Canada, or wherever else "about" is pronounced "aboot".

FULL REVIEW:
http://homegirl.typepad.com/home_girl/2005/05/like_notmusic_t.html ( )
  HomeGirlQuel | Apr 14, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hannah Craftsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gates Jr., Henry LouisEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Look not upon me because I am black; because the sun hath looked upon me. -Song of Solomon
Dedication
In memory of Dorothy Porter Wesley, 1905-1995 on whose shoulders we stand.
First words
It may that I assume to[o] much responsibility in attempting to write these pages.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
VIRAGO EDITION:
The Bondwoman's Narrative, written in the 1850s, is the only known novel by a female African-American slave, and quite possibly the first novel written by a black woman anywhere. A work recently uncovered by renowned scholar Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., it is a stirring, page-turning story of the adventures of a young slave as she makes her way to freedom.
The heroine is a self-educated young house slave who knows her life is limited by the brutalities of her society, but never suspects that the freedom of her plantation's beautiful new mistress is also at risk... or that a devastating secret will force them both to flee from slave hunters with another powerful, determined enemy at their heels.

Professor Gates's brilliant introduction includes the story of his search for the real Hannah Crafts, the biographical facts that laid the groundwork for her novel, and a fascinating look at other, contemporary slave narratives. The publication of The Bondwoman's Narrative as a Virago Modern Classic is an unprecedented historical and literary event.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0446530085, Hardcover)

Few events are more thrilling than the discovery of a buried treasure. Some years ago, when scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. was leafing through an auction catalog, he noticed a listing for an unpublished, clothbound manuscript thought to date from the 1850s: "The Bondwoman's Narrative, by Hannah Crafts, a Fugitive Slave, Recently Escaped from North Carolina." Gates realized that, if genuine, this would be the first novel known to have been written by a black woman in America, as well as the only one by a fugitive slave. He bought the manuscript (there was no competing bid) and began the exhilarating task of confirming the racial identity of the author and the approximate date of composition (circa 1855-59). Gates's excited descriptions of his detective work in the introduction to The Bondwoman's Narrative will make you want to find promising old manuscripts of your own. He also proposes a couple candidates for authorship, assuming that Hannah Crafts was the real or assumed name of the author, and not solely a pen name.

If Gates is right (his introduction and appendix should convince just about everyone), The Bondwoman's Narrative is a tremendous discovery. But is it a lost masterpiece? No. The novel draws so heavily on the conventions of mid-19th-century fiction--by turns religious, gothic, and sentimental--that it does not have much flavor of its own. The beginning of chapter 13 is a close paraphrase (virtually a cribbing) of the opening of Dickens's Bleak House. This borrowing seems to have escaped Gates, although he does quote the assessment of one scholar, the librarian Dorothy Porter Wesley, who had owned the manuscript before he acquired it, that "the best of the writer's mind was religious and emotional and in her handling of plot the long arm of coincidence is nowhere spared." Although not a striking literary contribution, The Bondwoman's Narrative is well worth reading on historical grounds, especially since it was never published. As Gates argues, these pages provide our first "unedited, unaffected, unglossed, unaided" glimpse into the mind of a fugitive slave. --Regina Marler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:13 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

When her master is betrothed to a woman who conceals a tragic secret, Hannah Crafts, a young slave on a wealthy North Carolina plantation, runs away in a bid for her freedom up North. Pursued by slave hunters, imprisoned by a mysterious and cruel captor, held by sympathetic strangers, and forced to serve a demanding new mistress, she finally makes her way to freedom in New Jersey. An unprecedented historical and literary event, this tale written in the 1850's is the only known novel by a female African American slave, and quite possibly the first novel written by a black woman anywhere. A work recently uncovered by renowned scholar, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., it is a stirring, page-turning story of "passing" and the adventures of a young slave as she makes her way to freedom. When Professor Gates saw that modest listing in an auction catalogue for African American artifacts, he immediately knew he could be on the verge of a major discovery. After exhaustively researching the hand-written manuscript's authenticity, he found that his instincts were right. He had purchased a genuine autobiographical novel by a female slave who called herself- and her story's main character- Hannah Crafts. Presented here unaltered and under its author's original title, The Bondswoman's Narrative tells of a self-educated young house slave who knows her life is limited by the brutalities of her society, but never suspects that the freedom of her plantation's beautiful new mistress is also at risk...or that a devastating secret will force them both to flee from slave hunters with another powerful, determined enemy at their heels. Together with Professor Gates's brilliant introduction- which includes the story of his search for the real Hannah Crafts, the biographical facts that laid the groundwork for her novel, and a fascinating look at other slave narratives of the time- The Bondwoman's Narrative offers a unique and unforgettable reading experience. In it, a voice that has never been heard rings out, and an undiscovered story at the heart of the American experience is finally told.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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