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Freedom Business, The

Ages: 11–14
Pages: 72
List Price: $18.95
Cover: Hardcover
Published: 10/1/2008
ISBN: 1-932425-57-8
ISBN-13: 978-1-932425-57-4
Born a prince in Africa, Venture Smith would become known to history as the first man to document both his capture from Africa and life as an American slave. Nelson's controlled verse layers this edition with insight into Smith's stoic eighteenth-century prose.

Awards

  • Best Young-Adult Books 2008 —Kirkus Reviews
  • A Junior Library Guild Selection

Reviews

Starred review "In an extraordinary slave narrative recorded in 1798, Venture Smith remembers his capture in Guinea as a child... Smith’s original, first-person account, published in 1798, appears opposite from Nelson’s stirring poems, which are written in Venture’s voice and both intensify and comment on Smith’s experiences. ... Dancy’s blurry sepia background art…includes ink lines that evoke chains and ropes and then broken bonds. It’s surprising that this essential part of American biography and history isn’t more widely known. Suggest this as a crossover title to adults."
     —Booklist

Starred review "An astonishing, heartbreaking cycle of poems is set in counterpoint against the slave narrative that inspired them. ... Painfully, readers see how commerce governed Venture's life even after he was "freed," struggling always for his humanity against the spiritual chains put in place by the twisted economy that shaped him. Tragic, important, breathtaking."
     —Kirkus Reviews

"Readers will find this a fascinating contrast to Fortune's Bones (BCCB 2/05), wherein Nelson offered a voice to the voiceless, and they'll find much to discuss in both Smith's life itself and in the implications of weaving it into a contemporary project."
     —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

The September 1, 2008 issue of Booklist features a starred review of Marilyn Nelson’s The Freedom Business:

“In an extraordinary slave narrative recorded in 1798, Venture Smith remembers his capture in Guinea as a child... Smith’s original, first-person account, published in 1798, appears opposite from Nelson’s stirring poems, which are written in Venture’s voice and both intensify and comment on Smith’s experiences. ... Dancy’s blurry sepia background art…includes ink lines that evoke chains and ropes and then broken bonds. It’s surprising that this essential part of American biography and history isn’t more widely known. Suggest this as a crossover title to adults."