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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by…

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)

by Harriet Jacobs

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I really enjoyed this book, it was very accessible and expected a reasonable amount of intelligence from readers. :-) Jacobs has a wry sense of humor in the face of a blatant and systemic injustice. ( )
  librarycatnip | Jan 12, 2015 |
This was one of the more well written books that I have ever read. Incidents in the life of a slave girl followed the story of "Linda Brent", which is actually a fake name. The books was written as a slavery narrative of the authors life. I feel the overall message of the book is about survival. The story brings to light how power and abuse can ruin someone's life. I also feel that the reasoning behind this book being written was to teach the reader how the life of a female slave differed from the life of a male slave. Although both were very cruel and horrid, Harriet Jacobs allowed the reader to see into the mind and psyche of a female slave.

The characters are very well developed in this book. The author used characters from her own experiences as a slave, although she did change the names of some of the characters to protect their identities. The main character, Linda Brent, was actually a pseudonym for Harriet Jacobs. The story follows her life and her experiences as a slave. As a reader, you are able to gain so much insight into the mindset of a female slave. Her relationship with Dr. Flint (her new master once her mother and the mothers mistress had passed away) was a very disturbing relationship. He attempted to create a sexual relationship with Linda. The reader bears witness to the mindset of Dr. Flint, who would rather use tricks and cunningness to lure Linda into a sexual relationship, rather than just rape. After all, slaves were considered to be the property of their master, whom which could do whatever they wanted with their property. Other characters include Linda's family, including her brother, who she is very close to. Her brother escapes from his master. I feel that this event in the story shows how all slaves have the mindset that freedom is desired above all else.

The characters point of view was also very important to the story, as well as very well written. As I mentioned above, the book followed the telling's of Linda Brent. Being a pseudonym to Harriet Jacobs, this book is considered to be an autobiography of her life as a slave. She tells the story with extreme detail. However, Jacobs reveals in the beginning of the book that there were aspects of her story that she could not bear to write down on paper. These details are able to create a vivid image for the reader. Although there are no illustrations in the book, the author uses word choice and language very effectively to create pictures in the readers head.

I enjoy reading books about war times and hardships. Out of all of the books that I have read about slavery, I believe that this may be the best written one. To read about personal experiences and real life events, it is much more descriptive than I would have ever thought when I picked up this book. ( )
  Andrewturner | Oct 7, 2014 |
I really enjoyed this book, it was very accessible and expected a reasonable amount of intelligence from readers. :-) Jacobs has a wry sense of humor in the face of a blatant and systemic injustice. ( )
  raselyem7 | Aug 30, 2014 |
I've had this book for a while. I should have read it sooner! ( )
  TheresaUpshur | Jun 3, 2014 |
Being a subscriber to Brown Girl Collective, a Facebook page that regularly features inspirational Black women in history, I happened upon the life story of Harriet Jacobs, a runaway slave. Learning she had written a book (under the pseudonym Linda Brent), I knew this was a must read and promptly got it from Amazon. When the book arrived, I opened its pages tentatively, and indeed, at first, I wasn't certain I could make it all the way through. Notwithstanding the uncomfortable topic, I steeled myself, and very soon I was unable to put this little gem of a book down. As I read, I kept thinking I couldn't believe it hadn't been made into a movie, because this true story has it all: an engrossing story that keeps the reader on pins and needles; intriguing personalities, including the indomitable Harriet; and the backdrop of a society so sick and depraved in nature that it took its toll on all involved.

In all my years, I have never read a real-life slave account, and I fully expected this story to be rather dry and unappealing. Instead, I was treated to a tale that rivals any of the best novels I've ever read. Harriet tells her story with such heart, the reader can feel the pain, anger, fear, and despair she endured for years. Even fully aware of her ultimate fate before I started reading (she manages to make it North as a runaway), I still found myself worried and anxious as I read. Her journey to freedom is anything but a straight line, and the events leading to her freedom are fraught with tension and suspense. Fiction could not be any better.

Then, there are the personalities that populate the story. There's Harriet herself, a proudly stubborn girl who refuses to give into her master and is determined to secure both her and her children's freedom at almost unbelievable cost to herself. Her master Dr. Flint is almost inhuman....nothing less than sick, jealous, and vindictive, determined that if he cannot have her himself, no one else ever will and she will never go free. Mrs. Flint is equally unhinged, hating Harriet because of her husband's obsession. And then, there are the good souls: Harriet's beloved grandmother who would do anything for her; her uncles and brothers who try to protect her; and the host of friends, both Black and white, who try to help Harriet. As she writes, Ms. Jacobs gives her laser-beam perceptions on people, acknowledging the good and the bad in people whether no matter their color.

And this brings us to the setting of the antebellum South, a sick, depraved society that infected everyone in its grip. Indeed, one can say that everyone was a victim in this society. To be clear, I am certainly not saying that Whites suffered anywhere near what African slaves did under the system. There is simply no comparison when one reads of slashing tendons in the ankles to prevent runaways, whippings, selling off family members, denying food to slaves too old to work..the list goes on. Nevertheless, in Dr. Flint and his wife, one can see how divorced from humanity this system caused many southern Whites to become. When one is born and suckled in such depravity, what chance do most have to rise above it and be something other than inhuman? Surely, some did, as we see in Harriet's story, but for the most part, we are a product of our environment. This book opened my eyes even further to this fact, and helps further understanding of why our country is as it is even 150 years after slavery.

In the end, I urge everyone to read this book. It is enlightening, and also, just plain good reading. ( )
  LitLoversLane | Feb 28, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Harriet Jacobsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Child, Harriet Annsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Child, Lydia MariaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jacobs, John S.Contributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yellin, Jean FaganEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Northerners know nothing at all about Slavery. They think it is perpetual bondage only. They have no conception of the depth of degradation involved in that word, Slavery; if they had, they would never cease their efforts until so horrible a system was overthrown. -A Woman of North Carolina

Rise up, ye women that are at ease! Hear my voice, ye careless daughters! Give ear unto my speech. -Isaiah xxxii.9
First words
I was born a slave; but I never knew it till six years of happy childhood had passed away.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Originally published under the pseudonym Linda Brent.
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Book description
One of the first personal narratives written by an ex-slave, this is also one of the few written by a woman. Harriet Jacobs (1813-97) was enslaved, along with her family, in North Carolina under a ruthless master who sexually harassed her. After several failed escape attempts, and several years of hiding, she finally made her way North to freedom, where she was eventually reunited with her children. The book was published in 1861.
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This autobiographical account by a former slave is one of the few extant narratives written by a woman. Written and published in 1861, it delivers an unflinching portrayal of the brutality of slave life. Jacobs speaks frankly of her master's abuse and her eventual escape, in an inspirational account of one woman's dauntless spirit and faith.--From publisher description.… (more)

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