Walter (Mississippi Challenge) treats fiction as the handmaiden of history and politics in this fact-based story, drawing from research about Mum Bett, a Massachusetts slave who successfully sued for her freedom shortly after the Revolutionary War. For a narrator Walter chooses Mum Bett's sister, whose name and life story have gone unrecorded. The author gives her the African name Aissa, which means ""Second Daughter""; a self-satisfied, capricious mistress; a strong temperament; and an indomitable will to be free. Aissa charts the injustices as she watches her more accommodating older sister, Bett, serve men who spout Revolutionary rhetoric about liberty with no thought to the humans they treat as property. Bett's husband, a free man, is killed fighting in the Revolution, but the pension Bett receives is nowhere near enough to buy their child's freedom. In common with many other heroines reclaimed from oblivion, Bett is also a skilled folk healer. It's a story of perfect political rectitude, but the agenda here is stronger than the narrative--judging from the intriguing historical note at the end of the book, its lessons might have been even more clearly delivered as nonfiction. Ages 12-up. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/29/1996 Release date: 02/01/1996 Genre: Children's
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