Crossing Ebenezer Creek

In her first novel in four years, Tonya Bolden (Searching for Sarah Rector) translates her passion for the past into a beautiful and harrowing vision of freedom and tragedy.

Mariah remembers that "a hungry hush sent a shiver down her spine" on the day in 1864 when the Yankees arrived on her owner's land in Georgia, bringing her freedom. Born into slavery, the young woman gladly joins hundreds of other freed slaves following Union forces north. On the march, she meets Caleb, a kind young man who "brought to mind sightings of the moon in the middle of the day" for Mariah, who had previously never met a freeborn black person. Caleb lets Mariah and her developmentally delayed little brother Zeke ride in his wagon; through their conversations, Mariah learns about the war and freedom while the reader discovers the horrors she and her loved ones faced while enslaved. The couple fall in love as easily as breathing, but catastrophe looms over their future.

Teens may be surprised to see that "[c]olored lives don't matter" to many Union officers in this reimagining of a dark moment in American history. Poetic in tone and savage in its depictions of the tortures slaves endured, Crossing Ebenezer Creek grants dignity and depth to its characters and considers the difficult and vulnerable position of African Americans as they adapted to freedom among whites who did not always view them as human beings. Readers will fall in love with Bolden's gentle lyricism as she unflinchingly unfolds a difficult story. --Jaclyn Fulwood, Youth Services Manager at Main Branch, Dayton Metro Library (Ohio)

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