The Other Side of Free

The Other Side of Free
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Release Date
October 01, 2013
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It is 1739. Young Jem has been rescued from slavery and finds himself at Fort Mose, a settlement in Florida run by the Spanish. He is in the custody of an ornery and damaged woman named Phaedra, who dictates his every move. When Jem sets out to break free of her will, an adventure begins in which Jem saves a baby owl, a pair of runaway slaves, and, eventually, maybe all the residents of Fort Mose. While Jem and the other characters are fictitious, the story is based on historical record. Fort Mose was the first legally sanctioned free African settlement in what is now the United States. In 1994 the site was designated a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2009, the National Park Service named Fort Mose a precursor site on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom

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1 review
A Different Look at Slave History
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Jem is a slave who must escape to a freed-slaves colony in Florida, after being set into the care of Phaedra, a mysterious but toughened woman with whom he must travel and remain once they arrive at Fort Mose, which is held by the Spanish. As he learns to live with her incessant ridicule and control, he begins to stand up for himself and takes pride in the baby owl he found in the woods and has raised into an adult. This book weaves a tale that takes one far into the past and behind the scenes of one of the most significant changes in our nation's history.

I found this book to be very, very slow. Though I was interested enough in Jem and his plight, the mysteries and their answers were too far removed from each other, and some of them didn't quite make sense to me. What I appreciated as I read was the ability of the author to take me into that time, and how I could sense how familiar she had made herself with Fort Mose and its history. The interracial dynamics, the introduction to different foods they ate and crafts they created, and the tense period of time Jem lived in were all very clearly wrought. I think this would be a great book to read in a history class, but sadly, the story was not as cohesive as I had wished.
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