Chasing the NightbirdHot
It has been a long time since I’ve read a fiction work exploring the themes of the Civil War era in the United States. I do not recall reading any, in fact, that revisited this time period through the eyes of a freeborn colored person. It is a unique perspective indeed, and Russell builds upon the historical foundation typically laid in middle and high school (and beyond) by introducing other true but often unknown or unstudied facts such as the experiences a colored, non-slave might have had with racism depending on his location, vocation, and origin.
Chasing the Nightbird, although slow-going at first, eventually delivers a good mix of action and thought-provoking story development. Although Lucky’s character is not as developed or deep as his friends Daniel and Emmeline, he is a great catalyst in this story and his spunky, no-fear attitude is a fun contrast to Daniel’s pensiveness and Emmeline’s caution. I especially like how Emmeline’s strong spirit and morals and Daniel’s experiences eventually draw out and expand Lucky’s values and ignite a desire in him to look out for someone besides himself. Emmeline proved to be my favorite character, with what I found to be a fully developed and strong personality. This glimpse of the past provides not only a lesson in history but a true-to-life adventure that awakens the humanity in Lucky and hopefully, in us all.