cover image FORBIDDEN FRUIT: Love Stories from the Underground Railroad and Beyond

FORBIDDEN FRUIT: Love Stories from the Underground Railroad and Beyond

Betty DeRamus, . . Atria, $25 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-7434-8263-9

"He carried his wife to freedom on his scarred and beaten back—that's really all you need to know about John Little." But journalist DeRamus reveals more about Little and a dozen or so others in this uplifting and sometimes heartbreaking look at love during the U.S.'s slavery years. Employing newspaper articles, unpublished memoirs and reminiscences, oral histories, slave narratives, census data and other sources, not to mention a dramatic, novelistic narrative voice, DeRamus profiles couples—slave and free, black and white—who risked everything to be together. Slaves Ellen and William Craft escaped to the North by posing as a master (Ellen, with her "creamy color," played a white man) and his man (William was "the slave who cut up her meat and warmed her flannels"). James Smith was an escaped slave who spent 17 years traveling from Virginia to Canada in search of his beloved wife, and Lucy Millard was a white preacher's daughter who fell in love with Isaac Berry, a slave. "[N]ot all of these true tales end in triumph," DeRamus warns, but they are all riveting—if sometimes told in overdone prose. DeRamus and her subjects do the valuable service of reminding readers what it means to be courageous enough to love "in sickness and in health, [and] in war and peace as well." Illus. Agent, Rita Rosenkranz. (Feb.)