What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the date 1776? The Revolutionary War? The signing of the Declaration of Independence? George Washington and his troops fighting for freedom? Acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson writes about all of these things – from the perspective of a 13 year old slave.
Chains is the first book in The Seeds of America trilogy. Living in Rhode Island, Isabel and her young sister Ruth were freed from slavery upon the death of their owner, but no one is interested in finding the lawyer who drew up the papers. Sold to a wealthy couple, they are taken to New York City where Isabel is put to work as a house servant and the cruel mistress treats Ruth as a doll to dress up and display. Hoping to gain freedom Isabel secretly passes information to the rebels, but when an officer has the opportunity to help her escape, he instead turns her over for punishment. Although subdued by the brutality at first, she decides to use her anger, focusing on a plan to get her and her sister to a safe place where they can be free.
Slavery is so often associated with the Civil War and the South that I found it very interesting to read about what was going on almost a hundred years earlier in the North. Isabel’s story tells about what was happening to those without rights, and the Revolutionary War is a perfect setting, with the even larger drama of fighting to attain the freedom of an entire nation from the British. Chains is cataloged in our young adult section, but I would have no hesitation recommending it to adults looking for excellent historical fiction.