Summary and book reviews of The Bondwoman's Narrative by Hannah Crafts

The Bondwoman's Narrative

A Novel

by Hannah Crafts, Henry Louis Gates

The Bondwoman's Narrative
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2002, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2003, 416 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Written in the 1850's by a runaway slave (and recently discovered and edited by Professor Gates), this fictionalized biography offers a unique and unforgettable reading experience and is the only known novel by a female African American slave, and quite possibly the first novel written by a black woman anywhere.

An unprecedented historical and literary event, this tale written in the 1850s is the only known novel by a female African American slave, and quite possibly the first novel written by a black woman anywhere. A work recently uncovered by renowned scholar Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., it is a stirring, page-turning story of "passing" and the adventures of a young slave as she makes her way to freedom.


The Bondwoman's Narrative

"Unpublished Original Manuscript...a fictionalized biography, written in an effusive style, purporting to be the story, of the early life and escape of one Hannah Crafts, a mulatto..."

When Professor Gates saw that modest listing in an auction catalogue for African American artifacts, he immediately knew he could be on the verge of a major discovery. After exhaustively researching the handwritten manuscript's authenticity, he found that his instincts were right. He had purchased a genuine autobiographical novel by a female slave who called herself—and her story's main character—Hannah Crafts.

Presented here unaltered and under its author's original title, The Bondwoman's Narrative tells of a self-educated young house slave who knows her life is limited by the brutalities of her society, but never suspects that the freedom of her plantation's beautiful new mistress is also at risk...or that a devastating secret will force them both to flee from slave hunters with another powerful, determined enemy at their heels.

Together with Professor Gates's brilliant introduction—which includes the story of his search for the real Hannah Crafts, the biographical facts that laid the groundwork for her novel, and a fascinating look at other slave narratives of the time—The Bondwoman's Narrative offers a unique and unforgettable reading experience. In it, a voice that has never been heard rings out, and an undiscovered story at the heart of the American experience is finally told.

In October 2006 The Curse of Caste; or The Slave Bride by Julia C Collins was republished - it was first issued serially by the Christian Register in 1865 but was then lost to oblivion in the archives. Having been rediscovered, it now vies with The Bondwoman's Narrative for the title of oldest known novel written by a former slave (presumably meaning that though it was published in 1865, it was written sometime earlier.

Chapter 1
In Childhood

Look not upon me because I am black; because the sun hath looked upon me.
—Song of Solomon

It may be that I assume to[o] much responsibility in attempting to write these pages. The world will probably say so, and I am aware of my deficiencies. I am neither clever, nor learned, nor talented. When a child they used to scold and find fault with me because they said I was dull and stupid. Perhaps under other circumstances and with more encouragement I might have appeared better; for I was shy and reserved and scarce dared open my lips to any one I had none of that quickness and animation which are so much admired in children, but rather a silent unobtrusive way of observing things and events, and wishing to understand them better than I could.

I was not brought up by any body in particular that I know of. I had no training, no cultivation. The birds of the air, or beasts of the feild are not freer from moral culture than I was. No one seemed to...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

Booklist - Brad Hooper

It is, according to Gates, the first novel written by a female fugitive slave and perhaps the first novel written by any black woman at all. Gates' research into the manuscript's origins led him--albeit circumstantially--to find out more about Hannah Crafts, the author, and his recounting of the pursuit of that inquiry, also related in his introduction, only serves to enrich the whole reading experience of this surprising book. Let it be emphasized that this novel is not simply a historical document but also a vivid, compelling narrative.

Publishers Weekly

The style is sentimental and effusive, but it is also winning.

Reader Reviews

Bettina

This book is an excellent addition to the literary contributions of African-American writers in that it possesses a growing insight of the mind of an American female slave. You must read in between the lines in order to discover that many of the ...   Read More

Brooke Young

I had the oportunity to see Dr. Gates speak at my university about this book. His brilliance and excitement for it prompted me to purchase the book (and add it to my hugs list of books I want to read for quite some time). However, this summer I am ...   Read More

nathan harr

This was a very exciting and wonderful book. I believe everyone should read it!

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Bondwoman's Narrative, try these:

  • Philida jacket

    Philida

    by André Brink

    Published 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    In Philida, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, André Brink—"one of South Africa's greatest novelists" (The Telegraph)—gives us his most powerful novel yet; the truly unforgettable story of a female slave, and her fierce determination to survive and to be free.

  • The Healing jacket

    The Healing

    by Jonathan Odell

    Published 2012

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    The pre-Civil War South comes brilliantly to life in this masterfully written novel about a mysterious and charismatic healer readers won't soon forget.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Barkskins
    Barkskins
    by Annie Proulx
    Barkskins, by Annie Proulx, is not a book to read quickly. After a month of slow reading, I ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Marriage of Opposites
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's latest work, The Marriage of Opposites, is a historical fiction novel focusing on ...
  • Book Jacket: Miss Jane
    Miss Jane
    by Brad Watson
    National Book Award Finalist Brad Watson returns with an intimate novel about one woman's journey to...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Miss Jane
    by Brad Watson

    "Starred Review. Sensitive, beautifully precise prose. Highly recommended." - PW

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Imperial Wife
    by Irina Reyn

    A smart, engaging novel that parallels two fascinating worlds and two singular women.

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Girl Waits with Gun
by Amy Stewart

An enthralling novel based on the forgotten true adventures of one of the nation's first female deputy sheriffs.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!