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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


Whether I was about to be liberated or roasted up, I was hard set on the one thing I'd always cared most about: making Mama proud of me. As I gathered myself up, I thought about Daddy telling me how he'd made his way amongst a certain sort of white gentleman who enjoyed a bit of sass. I judged the General to be of that sort and shot back, "No, sir, I be singing at your funeral, sir. You can count on that."

Everyone except my mother sucked in his breath and stepped away from me. Even Clemmie put some air between us. Sheridan's dark eyes ceased reflecting the least little bit of light and narrowed down to draw a bead on me. If he could of shot bullets from those black eyes, I'd of come down in a pile right then and there. Yankee or Rebel, a white man was a white man, and I had taken a fatal step over the line. Slaves were lashed to death for imagined slights. Who knew what my bald-face sass would get me?

Old Miss's face pruned up with the fear that the Yanks would take out my impudence on her and she went to babbling and wagging her finger at me. "That one. That one is incorrigible. Ever since the bucks were taken and her mother was made overseer after Mr. Johnson fell ill, she has run wild. Lord knows we tried to beat the devil out of her, but he would not come."

"The devil, you say," Sheridan repeated and I knew I was done for. With strong hands to do the job, Old Miss could now order the hide to be whipped off me.

Instead, Sheridan just studied me as he scrunched his face around so that the tips of his black mustache twitched to one side of his mouth then the other. At last, he let out a bark of a laugh and told the colonel beside him, "They told me at West Point that I had the devil in me, didn't they, Terrill?"

Terrill mumbled some mealy-mouthed answer I couldn't hear, but the way Sheridan's question had caused the prissy colonel to tighten his lips told me that the West Point comment had been a pointed jab.

"Devil's just another name for spirit. Lad's got ______ spirit!" Then Sheridan mused, "His is a comical race of japes and buffoonery. Wouldn't hurt to season Solomon with a wee bit of levity, now would it, Terrill?"

"Indeed not, sir!" the colonel agreed before the question was all the way out of Sheridan's mouth. "Although, if I might add, sir. Your head cook did specifically request, if not a female, at least a house servant who knows a bit about cooking."

Well, that was it for me. Any skink slithering past knew more about cooking than me. But instead of asking what I knew, the General bellowed, "This is the United States Army, Colonel Terrill! Not ______ Delmonico's! Solomon will get the best of a bad ______ lot and make ______ do as we all make ______ do." He wiggled around in the saddle, settling his rump in good and solid, as if the colonel's comment had unseated him. Then he proclaimed my destiny. "It is decided then. You"—he pointed at me—"shall come with us and be my cook's helper."

Mama wailed, "No, massuh, please, not my child! My child is my heart, massuh. I gon die without my heart."

I had not heard the word "massuh" slip from between my mother's prideful lips since all the men had been carried off and Old Mister had made her overseer. She'd say "sir" and "mister," "ma'am" and "miss," but never "massuh" and would of switched me if I had ever uttered it. And she never spoke in such a pitiful, mush-mouthed way.

Her begging, though, had no effect on Sheridan who answered, "Then send him with your blessings, Mammy. Your blessings and prayers to our Lord Jesus and his Holy Mother that the Union Army shall smite the Rebels and you shall be the last mother whose son is ever taken from her."

Mama's protests that I wasn't no mother's son were lost in Sheridan booming out the order, "Colonel! Liberate the boy! He is now, officially, Union contraband!"

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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