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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Terrill leaped forward, grabbed me roughly, and promised, "I shall personally ensure that he is delivered to headquarters, sir." Then he shoved me in the direction of a bunch of soldiers, yet still I would not turn loose of Mama.

I was immediately swallowed up by a sea of blue coats. Hands popped out every sleeve and they all took to shoving me along, every soldier jockeying to see who could show off how tough he was by pushing me the hardest. They tried to yank me out of Mama's arms, but she clung so tight my bones popped. And I was clinging right back for though it was my dream to answer the call of my blood and be a warrior as Iyaiya had been, I never figured Mama and Clemmie wouldn't be fighting alongside me.

The white soldier boys hoisted me up into the air. The instant they ripped Mama's hands from mine, my mother shed the first tears I had ever seen fall from her eyes. Seeing that Mama loved me in the regular, American way made love gush so hot and hard through me that I, too, might of cried had I not been within the General's sight.

I reached out for Mama, but the soldiers pulled us apart and floated me over to Old Mister's buckboard. The wagon bed was crammed full with three miserable baskets of sweet potatoes, a couple of hogsheads of parched corn, our last scrawny pullet, and a few other sundry items left after three years of foragers stripping us like a plague of locusts from Revelations.

When they let down the back gate, a bushel of sweet corn tumped over, and the ears went rolling everywhere. The soldiers mashed me in next to a hogshead of cured tobacco held back from last year for Old Miss's personal use, and tried to slam the gate closed, but it banged hard against my knees. I had to tuck my long legs up until I was squatting like a bullfrog, knees beside my ears, before they could get the gate latched. Soldiers gathered up the runaway corn, threw it in, and seemed to be aiming specifically for me, since every ear knocked me in the head.

The buckboard bounced around when the driver, a tall white soldier with shoulders hunched up like a vulture, climbed onto the foretop and took the reins. He went to harring up the mules and the wagon creaked and started rolling away down the trail. As I was parted from them, Mama and Clemmie broke away from the soldiers. They had about reached me when a big iron X dropped down and stopped them in their tracks. Two soldiers marching behind the wagon had crossed the bayonets on their rifles and wouldn't allow my sister and my mother to come any closer.

Mama yelled to me in Fon, a language that she had never before spoken when whites were around as she would have been flogged for doing so. "Remember who you are," she said. "You are N'Nonmiton. You are the daughter of a daughter of a queen who was one of the six thousand virgin warrior-wives of King Ghezo, the greatest of the twelve kings of Dahomey!" The words rang with the strange music of the tongue we shared.

The sweat that glazed Mama's dark skin shone in the firelight. She tugged down the neck of her bodice to expose the five neat rows of scars that glistened there like black pearls between her collarbone and her heart. Holding my gaze, she touched the scar beads.

In answer, I touched my own set of identical scars and cried out to her in the language of my cradle, "Ma'ami! Ma'ami!"

Clemmie bleated out my name, "Cathy! Cathy! Cathy!"

As they fell farther and farther behind, Mama reached her arms out to me. I tried to yank mine loose, but they were mashed in tight next to my knees. All I could set free was my voice, and I yelled, "I'll come back, Ma'ami, I promise! I'll come back for you and Clemmie!"

I finally managed to work my arms loose and hold them out, leaning so far over the gate that I touched the bayonets. When I hit iron, the soldier turned his weapon and poked at me like he was transporting a bear. He kept on poking until I squatted back down.

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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