Monday, April 13, 2009

The Taste of Freedom

At my Passover Seder this year, one of the parts that made the biggest impression on me was an activity about freedom. My hosts poured a bag of quotes about freedom into the center of the table and everyone was told to choose a quote that he or she connected to and explain how it was meaningful to them. I picked the following quote from Abraham Lincoln that states, “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” This resonated with me for many reasons, but particularly in light of the reading I have been doing. I just finished reading Chains, an incredible novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, the author of Speak and Catalyst. She tells the story of Isabel, a teenage slave, who is sold to loyalists in Manhattan during the American Revolution. While our forefathers were fighting for freedom and talking about inalienable rights, they left a large portion of the population in chains. In lyrical prose, Anderson describes the day-to-day struggle of a young girl who questions the system and takes her destiny into her own hands. Often underestimated, Isabel is able to hear important information from her owners and pass it on to the revolutionaries, but the rebels are hardly her saviors. Instead, Isabel must find redemption and a place to call home on her own. Stories like Isabel’s are essential to understanding our own place in history, on the backs of those who were enslaved, and necessary to wipe away the rosy gloss that covers our forefathers’ memory. Like M.T. Anderson’s Octavian Nothing, Isabel questions the value of freedom for those who deny her the basic rights of human beings. Using meticulous historical research and intricate details, Anderson takes the reader back in time to confront these contradictions. Like the Seder, which is supposed to help the participants re-experience the slavery and redemption from Egypt, Anderson’s novel draws readers in to put themselves in Isabel’s shackled shoes, walk around for a while, and learn to appreciate the freedom that we have not earned.

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
Powerful story, rethinking history, beautifully written

Other Amazing Books about Freedom:

Feed by M.T. Anderson

Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport, artwork by Bryan Collier

Beware of God by Sholem Auslander

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

Guardian by Julius Lester

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Matilde by Roald Dahl


The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankel

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to read Chains! I didn't know the author of one of my favorite books, Speak, had written other books but now I'm determined to do an author study. Thanks!