Jean Fagan Yellin, Author . Basic Civitas $27.50 (432p) ISBN 978-0-465-09288-8

With the 1987 edition of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl , originally published in 1861, Pace University English professor Yellin recovered the real identity of the author behind the pseudonymous Linda Brent: Harriet Jacobs (1813–1897). With this deeply documented and thoroughly engaging biography, she provides a vibrant account of Jacobs's remarkable lives; in a triptych structure it moves from the slave girl, Hatty, to the writer, Linda, to the activist, Mrs. Jacobs. Yellin clarifies error and memory lapse without argument and frames the speculative responsibly. The first life is the best known: Hatty spends nearly seven years hiding in her grandmother's attic to escape the attentions, threats and abuse of her de facto owner. Where Jacobs omitted what "might detract from the story of her freedom struggle," Yellin goes behind her narrative's foreground (the terror of slavery, particularly for women) to restore "all the extras." Dimension and history are given to the Jacobs family and the Norcross family, as well as the Edenton, N.C., community they share. With the second life, Linda's, Yellin delineates the writing, publishing, marketing and reception of Incidents , as she traces Linda's service to and friendship with Cornelia Willis and Amy Post. In the third and least known of the lives, Yellin recounts the postbellum Mrs. Jacobs, who returned South to do relief work during the Civil War, struggled to establish schools and asylums for the black refugees and saw the rise of peonage, Jim Crow and Klan violence. Incidents presented a life of much isolation; Yellin's work recreates its rich milieu, delving deeply into Jacobs's connections to the literary and abolitionist worlds, tracing the full history of her daughter and her brother. This scholarly account, woven in a reader friendly fashion, restores "an heroic woman who lived in an heroic time" to history and to us. Photos. Author tour . (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/01/2003
Release date: 12/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-465-09289-5
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