Reviews of Black Cloud Rising by David Wright Falade

Black Cloud Rising

by David Wright Falade

Black Cloud Rising by David Wright Falade X
Black Cloud Rising by David Wright Falade
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Feb 2022, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Peggy Kurkowski
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About this Book

Book Summary

Already excerpted in the New Yorker, Black Cloud Rising is a compelling and important historical novel that takes us back to an extraordinary moment when enslaved men and women were shedding their bonds and embracing freedom.

By fall of 1863, Union forces had taken control of Tidewater Virginia, and established a toehold in eastern North Carolina, including along the Outer Banks. Thousands of freed slaves and runaways flooded the Union lines, but Confederate irregulars still roamed the region. In December, the newly formed African Brigade, a unit of these former slaves led by General Edward Augustus Wild—a one-armed, impassioned Abolitionist—set out from Portsmouth to hunt down the rebel guerillas and extinguish the threat.

From this little-known historical episode comes Black Cloud Rising, a dramatic, moving account of these soldiers—men who only weeks earlier had been enslaved, but were now Union infantrymen setting out to fight their former owners. At the heart of the narrative is Sergeant Richard Etheridge, the son of a slave and her master, raised with some privileges but constantly reminded of his place. Deeply conflicted about his past, Richard is eager to show himself to be a credit to his race. As the African Brigade conducts raids through the areas occupied by the Confederate Partisan Rangers, he and his comrades recognize that they are fighting for more than territory. Wild's mission is to prove that his troops can be trusted as soldiers in combat. And because many of the men have fled from the very plantations in their path, each raid is also an opportunity to free loved ones left behind. For Richard, this means the possibility of reuniting with Fanny, the woman he hopes to marry one day.

With powerful depictions of the bonds formed between fighting men and heartrending scenes of sacrifice and courage, Black Cloud Rising offers a compelling and nuanced portrait of enslaved men and women crossing the threshold to freedom.

Excerpt

It was late November 1863, the Wednesday before the feast day recently proclaimed by President Lincoln for giving thanks for the blessings of fruitful fields and healthy skies. We were aboard the Union steamer Express, pushing down the North Landing River, headed for a farm in the neighborhood of the Princess Anne Courthouse. I figured our paddle-wheel's daybreak passage to be about as welcomed by the Virginians living along the shore as the oaths of loyalty that each of them had lately signed his name to. Such was the price of occupation.

And once the lot of us colored troops spilled out onto their docks? Why, I expected they'd find this boatload of musketed Negroes a mite disquieting. And bully for their distress.

"What you knowing?"

I'd not heard Fields Midgett's approach over the spsh-spshspshing of the wheel on the water.

"Is it wise, do you think," said my old friend, "for a Negro garbed in Yankee blue, with sleeves festooned with sergeant's stripes, to ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Wright Faladé superbly crafts an authentic portrayal of the African Brigade and its harrowing experiences in 1863. Black Cloud Rising succeeds on every level as both history and historical fiction: evocative scenes, nuanced characters and taut writing convey powerful lessons about slavery, emancipation and Black identity. One will be the richer after reading this true story of the formerly powerless wielding weapons "primed with the percussion cap of memory."..continued

Full Review Members Only (783 words).

(Reviewed by Peggy Kurkowski).

Media Reviews

Booklist (starred review)
Tensely wrought…A masterful depiction of the precarious nature of Black life during the war and of slavery's unrelenting assault on human dignity.

Library Journal (starred review)
A triumphant examination of U.S. history and race relations at a crucial juncture, as seen through the eyes of the well-wrought, ever-questing Etheridge; highly recommended.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
The story of the African Brigade, a unit of Black freedmen who fought for the Union during the Civil War, gets its due in this superior adult debut from Faladé...Etheridge is made a fascinating figure, well suited to serve as the focal point for Faladé's exploration of the complexities of Etheridge and his comrades's rapid shift from powerlessness to armed military duty. Engrossing and complex, this will have readers riveted.

Author Blurb Charles Frazier, National Book Award-winning author of Cold Mountain
Wright Faladé's richly detailed, grippingly told story breathes life into a revolutionary moment when the U.S. moved a vital step forward toward achieving the ideals we've always proclaimed.

Author Blurb James Hannaham, Pen/Faulkner Award-winning author of Delicious Foods and The Pilot Imposter
David Wright Faladé's thrilling, revelatory Black Cloud Rising turns Civil War history upside down and makes America give up one of its darkest secrets—that our racial tension is literally a family feud.

Author Blurb Karl Marlantes, New York Times-bestselling author of Matterhorn
Black Cloud Rising is the story of a minor engagement in the Civil War, a footnote in most history books, but it is the story of a major part of American history: the hard fought, still continuing battle of African Americans to rise from slavery to equality. From a single time and place, like a hologram it generates a three-dimensional picture of the difficulties, complexities, and nuances faced by Black people then and now. If you like history, if you want to better understand the struggle for equality, no matter your personal history or race, and if you want a good story, read this book. It's a triple threat.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Sergeant Richard Etheridge's Second Act

Richard Etheridge in uniform with his crew wearing sailor suitsIn Black Cloud Rising, David Wright Faladé introduces a true and fascinating historical figure in Sergeant Richard Etheridge. Born in 1842 along the shores of North Carolina's Roanoke Island, Etheridge was raised as the property of John B. Etheridge until the Civil War and emancipation ended his physical oppression. As the Union military pushed deeper into Virginia and North Carolina in late 1863, efforts at enlisting freed African American slaves to fight for the Union attracted young Etheridge. He enlisted in the 2nd North Carolina Colored Volunteers (reorganized in 1864 as the 36th United States Colored Infantry) and was appointed a sergeant of Company F, serving for nearly three years. But it was only after the Civil War ended that...

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