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I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly (1997)

by Joyce Hansen

Series: Dear America - Publication Order (7), Dear America Re-issue - Publication Order (11), Dear America (Civil War/Slavery: Mars Bluff, South Carolina, 1865), Dear America Collections (Dear America: Civil War/Slavery, 1865), My Story

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1,2221712,250 (3.92)1
Twelve-year-old Patsy keeps a diary of the ripe but confusing time following the end of the Civil War and the granting of freedom to former slaves.

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Being a lover of history and historical fiction, I've been very excited about trying out the Dear America series for quite some time. Since all the books are written by different authors, I'm not sure how they compare to this one, but I was very pleased with my first foray into the series. I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly chronicles the life of a freed slave girl a few months after emancipation was voted into law. I was pretty sure the book was a work of fiction, but the author did such a good job with making the story believable that I had a few moments of doubt until reading the historical notes at the end which confirmed that it was. Patsy was a sweet, lovely, and very relatable character to read about. She is only about twelve or thirteen when the story open, and to the outside world she isn't much to look at. In addition to being an orphan, Patsy is painfully shy because of a severe stuttering problem, and she also walks with a pronounced limp. Inside though, she is a very brave and strong girl who secretly taught herself how to read and write during a time when the punishment for doing so could have been extremely severe. I really like how Patsy grew a lot throughout the story and became braver and more readily able to speak as time went on. She also takes so much joy and comfort from her reading that when she reads aloud, her stutter all but disappears. I really liked how the author put emphasis on the importance of literacy by showing how much it means to Patsy.

Through reading I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly, I was able to learn some things about what life was like for freed slaves. I found it interesting that their day to day lives weren't all that different after emancipation than they were before it, with the exception that they were now getting paid, albeit very low wages, for the work they were doing. Many of the former slaves from the plantation where Patsy lived left immediately, hoping to buy land of their own or find better work in the cities. Many stayed behind to become sharecroppers or to continue working as servants. There were conflicted feelings among them, and even in Patsy's mind, as to whether it was better to go or stay, and there were certainly positives and negatives to both sides of the coin. It was very interesting to learn about all of this, and the author's historical notes at the end of the book also helped to put things in perspective.

I don't believe I have ever read a book in diary format before, so I don't know if this is a typical example of a book written in that style or not. The one downside I found about this style, at least in the case of this book, is that it could be rather repetitive at times. For example: Every Monday is wash day; nearly every Tuesday the freed slaves have a Union League meeting where they discuss their rights and read the newspapers; nearly every Sunday they meet in the arbor for worship services. There is some variation in each of these entries, so it didn't bother me overmuch, but I could see how this could become tedious to kids who might be reading it. There were also a lot of characters to keep track of, and I found myself forgetting who various people were on occasion, which would probably mean that kids might have trouble with this too. I think the author's purpose was to show how lonely Patsy felt as more and more of the people she knew and had grown up with left the plantation, but it was a little hard to keep them all straight. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the book, and I am definitely looking forward to reading more books in the Dear America series. I think that this series and its companion series, My America, My Name Is America, and The Royal Diaries all have a great deal to offer both child and adult readers. ( )
  mom2lnb | Dec 15, 2020 |
  lcslibrarian | Aug 13, 2020 |
This story is written in the form of the diary of Patsy, an orphaned slave, who has secretly taught herself to read and write. After the Civil War ends and slavery is abolished, Patsy believes her master will keep his word and pay the former house slaves and provide an education for the slave children. But when Master Davis ignores his promise to establish a school, and the Freedmen's Bureau can't send a teacher, Patsy steps in to teach the students, old and young, to read and write. This story gives insight into the emotional, mental, and physical transitions the slaves went through as they learned how to live as a freed people. The book includes photos from the time period, as well as other historical pictures and memorabilia. A Coretta Scott King Award Honor book. This book also has an audio version available. ( )
  R180Lisa | Feb 23, 2019 |
I have not yet read this book.
  LynneQuan | Oct 16, 2017 |
In this story, it is written in diary format and tells all about Patsy, a recently freed 12-year-old slave girl who is still working on her old plantation, Davis Hall. She is now working for wages though. After being awarded her freedom, she was given a blank book by a family member of the plantation owner as a joke because slaves were not educated. Little did they know that Patsy discretely learned how to read and write when she was a slave. The diary becomes her best friend as she talks about the troubles she endures now as a freed black girl in the post-Civil War south. This Coretta Scott King Award winning book talk about an often overlooked part of American history, Reconstruction. The south was in shambles and at the mercy of the victorious northern states. Many slaves who were freed more than two years previous by the Emancipation of Proclamation, are now getting their first taste of freedom and all the tribulations and hardships they endure because of their freedom. In this book it has a very personal touch because it evokes emotions from a little girl that would be about the same age as the reader of this story. This would be a good book to have students learn about post-Civil War and the Reconstruction period after the Civil War in 1865.
  dennehycm32 | Feb 24, 2017 |
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For my dear nieces, Lisa, Tracy, Coughangela, April, and Megan. And my favorite nephew, Austin, III.
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I am so frightened my heart is dancing a reel in my chest.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Twelve-year-old Patsy keeps a diary of the ripe but confusing time following the end of the Civil War and the granting of freedom to former slaves.

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Patsy, a freed slave girl, continues to live on the plantation and faces many challenges. As a slave she had secretly learned to read and write while serving the master's children. As a freed slave she assists others in learning to read and write under adverse conditions.
Sunday, August 20, 1865

Dear Friend,
The children were so happy to see me this morning. They ran over when I reached the arbor. I felt as though my soul would rise and fly, as our song says.
We walked together to the spinning house. I will call it a schoolroom - even though it's not a real schoolroom, and I am not a real teacher. I gave each older child a paper with all of the letters and an easy word to match each letter; just the way Annie and Charles' teacher used to do ...
One of the old women said to me, "You such a quiet little thing, but you sho' know how to teach them letters."
I surprised myself when I said thank you without stammering.
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