BLUE-EYED SLAVE by Marshall Highet and Bird Stasz Jones
— Bruce Bennett, Professor Emeritus, Wells College
UNITED STATES, February 22, 2022 /EINPresswire.com/ — Authors Marshall Highet and Bird Stasz Jones have made a habit of trying to find little-known stories or snippets of history that are worth telling to serve as the spine of their plots.And they’ve done it again with their just-released BLUE-EYED SLAVE, historically grounded in the racial-equity choices of its time and anchored in meticulous research about Jewish life in the Revolutionary South, a true-life school dedicated to the education of slaves and its profound dangers, and the moral stances in every generation.
It is 1764 in Charles Town, and Harry’s school for enslaved children has been in full swing for 20 years, despite the Negro Act of 1740 which specifically forbids enslaved people from learning to read or write. Harry, the headmaster and an enslaved person himself, finds an unlikely ally in Hannah, a young Jewish girl from town who tutors Bintü, an exceptionally smart and beautiful recent acquisition of the prominent Reverend and Mistress Harte.
In spite of Harry’s success as a teacher, the political winds are shifting toward instability in the streets of Charles Town as the Stamp Act causes revolt, uproar, and armed protests. Caught in the crossfire of impending revolution and increased animosity toward and fear of an educated enslaved population, Harry’s school begins to feel the pressure. As danger looms, Harry and ultimately the two girls are forced to make hard decisions that will test their faith and integrity.
BLUE-EYED SLAVE is a work of historical fiction based on true events. It combines deft storytelling with relentless attention to historical accuracy, and levels an unflinching gaze at the cruelties of enslavement. Although human cruelty may be universal, BLUE-EYED SLAVE also shows us that the same is true for kindness and bravery.
“BLUE-EYED SLAVE transported me back in time to what I imagine it might have been like to be a preteen girl growing up in the small, tightly knit Sephardic Jewish community of Charles Town,” says Randi Serrins, M.S., Bank Street College of Education and Chair, Historic Coming Street Cemetery Trust. “Our country is still dealing with the fact that one group of people owned another. Until we honestly deal with our past and how it still shapes our present, we will never be able to move forward.”
While each author has works of her own, BLUE-EYED SLAVE is their second collaboration, following the 2019 release of HOLD FAST: A BOY’S LIFE ALOFT, a Young Adult historical novel in the vein of Kidnapped.
How does this author team work together? Jones finds the historical nugget from which the story will unfold. She creates a series of truth pins – real-life historically bona fide events or people – that the story hangs on. Highet imagines almost everything else. What conversations might the characters actually have? What are they feeling? She builds in spots of humor in what otherwise can be a grim tale, and invents villains that could’ve existed, but are certainly necessary for the dramatic tension.
Praise for the new book is already rolling in.
“BLUE-EYED SLAVE is simultaneously a rousing coming-of-age story and a powerful moral tale about the impossible choices ordinary people must sometimes face,” says Bruce Bennett, Professor Emeritus, Wells College. “What happens to the main characters affects the reader profoundly, so that the horrors of slavery are not simply acknowledged, but experienced almost intimately. This historical narrative is that rare thing: a page-turner that enables us to focus more clearly on some of the most painful aspects of the Human Condition.”
“It is a combination of a suspenseful thriller with Talmudic commentary: fasten your seatbelt,” says Jean Riesman Ph.D.
Kate Grannis, author of the Caerthwaite series, notes, “The authors have given us detailed history about life in the pre-Revolutionary South as well as strong, independent characters. The Charleston geography and historical context are finely drawn with elements of suspense. A captivating novel!”
“BLUE-EYED SLAVE hooked me right away. This is a unique coming-of-age tale of two very different teens whose lives intertwine…The intricacies of the relationship between a Jewish girl and an African slave girl are at the core of this historically accurate work,” says P.J. McGhee.
The book is available on Amazon and all popular retailers where books are sold.
MARSHALL HIGHET is a professor and writer. Spare Parts – her YA sci-fi novel – was published in 2014 and has an educational bent, with science as its foundation, making it ideal to pair with a syllabus. Hold Fast, written with Bird Jones, is a swashbuckling adventure with historical facts holding it up. Currently living in Nebraska, Marshall plans on moving back to New England as soon as it’s humanly possible.
BIRD STASZ JONES holds a doctorate from Syracuse University and is a professor Emerita of Elon University. An ethnographer by training, her love of stories and story collecting has taken her from Appalachia to Central Asia. There she worked in collaboration with ministries of education, global donors, and village teachers to support literacy. Awarded a Fulbright, she was able to visit and work in the farthest most school on the Afghan/Tajik border – literally the roof of the world.
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