Saturday, May 3, 2008

Module 8 NonFiction: A Voice Of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet

A Voice of her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet
Lasky, Kathryn. 2003. A Voice of her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet. Illustrated by Paul Lee. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.

Torn from her family in Africa and brought on a slave ship to America at the tender young age of seven, Phillis Wheatley was fortunate enough to be bought by a family who would teach her to read and write, unheard of for slaves at that time. Named Phillis after the slave ship on which she arrived in the colonies, the young girl quickly learned to read and write in many languages. Soon, she was writing poetry and became famous in both England and the United States as the first published Black woman poet. In the Author’s Note, Lasky compares Phillis’ enslavement to the Revolution and illiteracy, “To be voiceless is to be dehumanized. We are all diminished as human beings—not simply as a race but as members of a species—when we are silenced.” A facsimile of the frontispiece of Wheatley’s book, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, can be found in the book, but glaringly missing are references to her poems or where to find them. A few lines are interspersed throughout the story, but just enough to make the reader realize that there is much more to Wheatley’s work. A tender, poignant reference is made to Wheatley’s early life in Africa, but her life after about age twenty until her early death at age 31 is glossed over and the book abruptly ends. Paul Lee’s warm, detailed illustrations bring life and emotion to this otherwise bland tale. A rare look at an African American Pioneer.

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