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4.3 out of 5 stars
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Dover Thrift Editions)
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302 of 309 people found the following review helpful
on 4 March 2011
Although Linda has been treated fairly well, she is still a slave and as such suffers from the degradations and deprivations that all slaves suffered in the southern states of America during the eighteen hundreds. Incidents in the Life of A Slave Girl tells of Linda's struggles and triumphs over her `condition' in her own words, spanning several decades....

Although I love to read this isn't a book that I would have really bought for myself, I much prefer science fiction or horror to biographies. But as the Kindle edition was free to download and I have the Kindle for Android app on my phone I decided to give it a go and found it was quite a revelation. Although the book is in no way graphic, we are left in doubt as to how difficult and humiliating life is for a young woman growing up as the property of another man. As the book progressed, I really found myself sympathising with Linda and rooting for her in her quest for freedom for both herself and her children.

In the main part the language used is easy to read and the conversational style almost makes it feel as if we're sitting next to Linda as she tells us her story. There are a few points in the book where she uses patois, which I found a little harder to follow, and there are also points where the 'N' word is used. Thinking long and hard about it, the fact that this book is a slave girl telling us this story, means that this language is exactly how she would have spoken, and to remove those words because we now find them offensive would have been in fact offensive to her memory. Throughout the whole book you really do get to understand Linda's motivations and empathise with her, as she recounts both her own and the stories of those around her with just the right level detail. Her love and respect for her Grandmother really did show through as did her fear of disappointing those who had given up so much for her.

Due to the subject matter there are obviously some very emotional points in the book, there were a couple of chapters that brought tears to my eyes and the ending was a true depiction of triumph over adversity. Although there are no graphic descriptions of the treatment that Linda and other slaves received, nothing is glossed over. So it's easy to picture the fear that countless thousands of men, women and children lived in and how hard life must have been for them. But this isn't just the story of a slave, it's the story of a grand-daughter, mother, and indeed a whole country.

Unlike other books that I have read that cover the subject of slavery, there's no glossing over of the North's involvement in the vile trade. By the last page we are left in no doubt of the North's complicity in returning those slaves who have escaped persecution back to their masters. All in all this book gives a fascinating insight into the life of slaves, in particular females slaves, their hopes and fears and the attitudes of those around them, all from the view point of a very brave woman, who was willing to lay her life down to secure freedom for herself and her children. While I wouldn't particularly recommend this to the youngest of teenagers, I do think it's a worthwhile read for anyone aged fifteen and up. And I feel this book would probably be of far more interest to female readers than male, only because it is the story of a very strong, inspirational woman. As far as stars out of five go, I've no hesitation in giving Incidents From The Life Of A Slave Girl, five out of five, and there's no doubt that I will at some point be reading it again, as well as encouraging friends and family to give it a try.
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203 of 208 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 2010
Beautifully written, sometimes a harrowing read this book deals at first hand of the traumars that slaves - especially female slaves endured. Most people will be aware of the physical horrors that slaves endured; and these are not glossed over; but this book majors on the emotional cruelty that female slaves had to live with. 'How could they?' is the natural reaction to indignity and cruelty meeted out by the slave owners and traders. Be prepared for a heart jerker of a true story, but above all, read it
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 28 May 1999
I've read this book a few times over the years. The first being for a college course. It stayed with me then as it did each and every time I've read it. I highly recommend this novel as it is so frighteningly realistic and poignant. I have found myself many times recommending this novel to friends and family. It is rich in culture, history and plot. I highly recommend it.
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86 of 88 people found the following review helpful
on 8 January 2011
Even though this is a very tragic story you can't change history.It's good to keep alive the past so this never happens again.Did enjoy this book(in a sad way).If you are of a sensative nature this may be upsetting that people could treat a fellow human this way.I was amazed that the writer had to go through such hardship in her life before finding peace and semi freedom.Written at a time when slavery was still rife but no mention of dates when all this occured.
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95 of 98 people found the following review helpful
on 20 September 1998
It took me a few days to track down this book, but thankfully, Amazom.Com had it, and was able to send it to me within a few days. I picked it up, expecting to be a long, dry read as most of the fiction (not just slave narratives, mind you) has a tendency to take on such characteristics. Just the style of the period, I suppose.
Boy, was I surprised. Harriet Jacobs, writing under a pseudonym, published this book in 1861 after spending many, many years in hiding from her "master," Dr. Charles Flint, a lecherous, sexually-aggressive man determined to break her spirit. Seven years in a cramped, ten-by-seven foot attic crawlspace, however, did little to crush this woman, for she not only managed to escape North Carolina herself, but her children and uncle escaped as well. Her grandmother, freed when she was fifty years old upon the death of her mistress, died during Jacobs' exile in Boston.
What I most enjoyed about this text was its style and frankness with the material. Written as a part slave narrative, part journal, and part epistle to the reader, Incidents tells a remarkable tale of the callousness of white men to slaves, who were deemed subhuman and ignorant. Harriet Jacobs demonstrates an enormous capacity for intelligence through her careful, brutally honest memoirs. Although the names of friends, family, and enemies were changed, perhaps to protect the innocent, perhaps to protect the guilty, there is no doubt in my mind that the horrors Jacobs describes occurred, and while my family arrived in America at the early part of this century, I still experienced a great embarassment and shame. Not because I had anything to do with those horrid crimes. No... I feel shame because I know it still continues today, and it saddens my heart to know it will probably continue tomorrow.
Rest in peace, Harriet Jacobs.
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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on 9 January 2011
one of the most heartbreaking and emotive recollections of slave history that i have ever read. what a brave and eloquent writer with a true and beautiful heart. thank you
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 2011
Couldnt put this book down. What a life these poor people had, how could people be treated like that, Linda the slave girl was born into slavery and her story from a child playing to a desperate mother trying to free her own children, totally spellbinding and harrowing account it beggers believe how people were treated and so brutally,
One to read and as it's free go on have a good read
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 May 2011
Although initially I found the style to be childlike and somewhat unsophisticated that was soon forgotten and subsumed by the content of the book. There is something about it which simultaneously fascinates and appals the reader. At times I had to put it down as I considered the fact that it is a true and contemporaneous account of the dreadful life endured by slaves. As a mother it was hard to read of the way in which the children of slaves were removed from their parents whether for profit or as a punishment for even minor, or imagined transgressions, just so that the slave owners could demonstrate their power over their "property". It was hard to imagine a man procreating with his female slaves just to increase his stock in the way described. We have always been aware of, and condemned, the evils of slavery but this book makes the reader aware of it in new ways through the, sometimes casual, cruelty of the slave owners and traders, be it emotional or physical, and the absolute denial of humanity in slaves who are often told that they are not human and are treated in the most appalling ways. This book makes clear that not all the cruelties inflicted on slaves are physical, although there is plenty of that, but that there are some worse cruelties, the splitting up of families, selling a slave away from spouse and children, selling children away from parents and siblings, and even raising the slave children of the owner alongside his wife's children to be slaves to their siblings.
This book is by no means unremittingly sad although at times it can seem almost overwhelming, but the small acts of kindness shown by various people, and the determination of the protagonist not to break under the burden but to gain freedom for herself and her children act as beacons in a dark place and give cause for hope in a desperate situation.
As social comment on life for everyone who lived in the era of slavery, be they bonded or free, through their attitudes to slavery this book is invaluable and should be required reading.

Just as an aside to the comment about the use of the N word, this book was written in the 19th century when the word was in common usage and was how the slaves were described. To change it now to satisfy 21st century sensitivities would to my mind be a betrayal of the author and all the people who endured what that word meant,especially as it is a word so filled with meaning relevant to that time that we no longer use it. If they had to live it, surely we can bear the discomfort of reading it? Just an opinion.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 15 June 2012
This is a very well written book which kept my attention from page one. It is a harrowing read and you feel for the author.It is history presented from a very personal prospective.A must read that will stay with you.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 26 January 2011
This book was listed as free so I thought 'why not?'
The book is a narrative of a young girl's view of the world as it appears to her.
It is presented in a conversational style in which it easy for the reader to keep on reading to find out what happens next.
There are elements of a 'train crash' though, for most of us have some knowledge of history and can understand that the difficulties and injustices she faced would take a long time to be resolved.
I'm glad i read it.
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