Thursday, February 27, 2014
Delia Sherman's THE FREEDOM MAZE—Guest Post and Giveaway!
Guest post by Delia Sherman on THE FREEDOM MAZE (which I adored and highly recommend)...
When I began writing The Freedom Maze, back in 1987, I didn’t intend to write a book about race. I intended to write a book about time travel and a shy, bookish girl who learned that adventures are very different to read about than to live. I set it in Louisiana because I like Louisiana and had spent a certain amount of time down there when I was a child, visiting my mother’s family. I sent my heroine back to 1860 because I’m interested in societies on the edge of war, and not so much in war itself.
Of course, that meant that I had to deal with slavery, which is an even bigger can of worms than the Civil War, but writing a novel is like that sometimes. One decision about setting or plot can lead you into places you never thought you’d go. Political places. Dangerous places. Places that make you face things that are hard to tackle. Like the history of race in America, and how the ghost of slavery still haunts our laws and customs and daily lives. Like how otherwise kind and thoughtful men and women can believe that certain classes and kinds of human beings are not as sensitive, intelligent, hardworking, worthy, human as they are themselves. Like what it must have been like to live every day knowing that you were property, barred by law from resting when you were tired, going where you wanted to go, complaining when you were unfairly treated—in some cases, from living with your own family.
Ideally, I would have liked to talk to people who had experienced both sides of this issue, but there is no one left alive who remembers at first hand what it was like to be a slave (or a slave-owner) in the old South. There are, however, plenty of records and lists and letters and memoirs and reminiscences written by both slave-holders and slaves, many of them published in easily-accessible books, many more lurking in libraries. I visited a handful of these, and at Loyola University in New Orleans, in a yellow manila file folder stuffed with advertisements for runaway slaves, I found a notice. The advertistment was for a young slave woman. “Blond and blue-eyed,” the descrription read. “Could pass as white.”
Could pass as white.
Because, of course, she was, to look at, anyway. Because by the middle of the 19th century, slavery had as much to do with money and class and fear of difference as it did with skin color.
I have long believed that racism, prejudice and oppression have their roots in class, in history, and most poisonously, in fear of difference. What I tried to do in The Freedom Maze was to demystify that difference, to make the experiences of one group emotionally accessible to everybody, to show what happens when human beings are focused on “us” and “them” rather than on everybody—not to erase differences, but to look beneath them to our common humanity.
Oh, and to tell a good and exciting story about characters I love.
Headshot by Augusten Burroughs.
Delia Sherman was born in Japan and raised in New York City but spent vacations with relatives in Texas, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Her work has appeared most recently in the young adult anthologies The Beastly Bride: Tales of the Animal People; Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories; and Teeth: Vampire Tales. Her novels for younger readers include Changeling and The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen. She lives in New York City. Visit her website to learn more.
Candlewick is kindly giving away one free copy of THE FREEDOM MAZE to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the US or Canada to win. Enter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Sophie begins as a spoiled, unfocused 13-year-old and ends as a confident, self-possessed and aware 14-year-old. And the events that lead to her growth are nothing short of amazing. She goes back in time on her family's plantation and is mistaken for a slave. I can't imagine the research that went into this book to transport me, as the reader, to the time and place in a more palpable way than I've ever experienced. It seems with all the slave movies and books I'd have had a stronger sense. But this gave me the 'what it's like to wake up as a slave' experience. What was breakfast? What did you do when you had your period? And of course, what was it like to be somebody else's property. When Sophie returns to her time, I think I was as desperately eager to know what had happened to her new friends as she was. Deeply rewarding and rich, I highly recommend this book to younger readers as well as adults.