Excerpt from Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen

by Sarah Bird

Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird X
Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2018, 416 pages

    Paperback:
    Feb 2020, 544 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Valerie Morales
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Print Excerpt

Chapter 1

Here's the first thing you need to know about Miss Cathy Williams: I am the daughter of a daughter of a queen and my mama never let me forget it. That's right. Royal blood runs purple through my veins. And I am talking real Africa blood. Not that tea-water queens over in England have to make do with. My royal blood comes from my grandmother, my Iyaiya, as we called her in Fon, our secret Africa language. And don't go picturing one of them sweet old grannies like you got nowadays with linty lemon drops tucked into her apron pocket for the grandkids. No, she had possum teeth, filed to points so, if need be, she could rip an enemy's throat out, for my grandmother was one of the Leopard King's six thousand warrior-wives, what the French called les Amazones.

The second thing you better get straight about Miss Cathy Williams is that, even though I had the misfortune to be born in Missouri nearly fifty years ago, somewhere in the vicinity of 1840 to 1844, depending on how Old Miss told the tale that day, I am not a Southerner. Only two things in this world the South is good for. Hookworm and misery. I've lived here in Trinidad, Colorado, for over twenty years and it'd take chloroform and a gun to ever get me back to the South. What I'm trying to say is I am a Western woman and that is what that dandified reporter from the St. Louis Daily Times never understood about me. Just because I was from the South, that pinch-nosed weasel expected me to be a grinning old auntie, calling him "suh," shuffling her feet, and talking about dem ole days back home. When I didn't turn out to be some green country gal fresh off the plantation never knew the touch of shoe leather and was, instead, a person who could talk just as proper as him when she was of a mind to, here's what that skunk dump wrote in the January 2, 1876, edition of the St. Louis Daily Times. He wrote that I received him "with an assumed formality that had a touch of the ridiculous."

"Assumed"? Because I knew when to say "ain't" and when not to?

How do you answer back to a newspaper? With just a few words, that bowler-hatted jasper made me out to be a fraud and every word out of my mouth a lie. No wonder folks don't believe me when I tell them I was a Buffalo Soldier. Having both my feet amputated last year has not strengthened my case either. The way I'm being whittled down, I reckon I might have another year, two at the most, to set the record straight before they fit me out for a pine box. So, with Miss Olivia Hathcock, teacher at the Trinidad, Colorado, Free School for the Children of Colored Miners, taking down my words that is what I intend to do.

No point in starting off with whatever date Old Miss wrote in her book to record the births of the slaves born onto their miserable tobacco farm off on the far west side of Missouri in a region so Confederate it was called Little Dixie. No, my real life, the one I was meant to have, did not start until an August night in 1864, three years into the war, when I watched the only world I'd ever known burn to the ground and met the man who was to be my deliverance and my damnation, the Yankee general Philip Henry Sheridan.

The first time I laid eyes on Philip Sheridan, the man might of been Satan himself. He was mounted up high on a black horse must of been sixteen hands tall set smack in the middle of fires roaring so loud that Sheridan had to yell orders down to his blue-jacketed demons in a voice that thundered like Judgment Day. The Yank soldiers swarmed through the farm, torches held aloft, kerchiefs tied over their noses against the smoke. Tears washed white streaks down their soot-blackened faces. They were burning Old Mister's tobacco crop and the smell, like ten thousand men smoking stogies, could of harelipped a bull ox.

My little sister Clemmie, a wisp of a girl subject to many a nervous complaint, trembled in terror against me, for the white preacher had warned us that Yankees were minions of Lucifer. "They'll slice you open," he promised whenever the occasion had presented itself. And many times when it had not. "And let their dogs drag your guts out so you can die watching your entrails being devoured."

Excerpted from Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird. Copyright © 2018 by Sarah Bird. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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