THE RE-REMEMBERED

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Sarah Freedom, the free daughter of two enslaved people stolen from Fante-land in Africa, has seen and heard a lot in her time. Now, on the cusp of the American Civil War, the practiced storyteller sets down further chapters of her life and the histories of those around her. There are the peregrinations of Caesar, the Shawnee warrior with African ancestry who fought against the Americans in the War of 1812 and rescued Sarah and her brothers from slavery. There are the many tall tales of her brother Dan, who served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, owned a stagecoach business in Cincinnati, and fathered numerous children by numerous women. There’s the account of Sarah’s other brother, Robin, known as a “Colonel” for the escape that he helped plan after being captured and enslaved again in Georgia. Set mostly in an Ohio Quaker community composed of both Black and White residents, the book covers the entirety of the Antebellum period and represents a patchwork of experiences, all happening in a time when slavery still touched every facet of American life. Wilson’s prose is highly textured, resurrecting a past that is every bit as fractious and fraught as the present. Storytelling is central to the understanding of Sarah’s history, not just for her, but for nearly every other character as well. “Why not die like men and women who was worth being re-remembered?” asks Robin. When someone tells him that the word is remembered, he responds: “No it ain’t….We was already remembering we was born to be warriors and it was for others to remember us more than once if they had good sense, and this land is as mean as I think it is.” Though the work bills itself as a collection of stories, the pieces read less like short tales than vignettes or anecdotes. The book is highly researched, and the author isn’t afraid to get bogged down in the details, even at the expense of narrative momentum. Those who have enjoyed his previous effort will likely be satisfied with this continuation of his project.

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