Monday, April 21, 2014

Book Review: 12 Years A Slave (Solomon Northup)

I've been reading for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I loved the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine. In fifth grade, our teacher would let us read for half an hour while she played Enya from a CD player. I may have been one of the only kids in that class who looked forward to reading time.

Most writers enjoy reading and they write what they enjoy reading about. I enjoy reading about history, technology, travel, and action / adventure fiction. I write about all of those subjects as well. I also enjoy horror and mysteries, but I haven't quite figured out how to write in those genres yet.

Lately, I read during my lunch break at work. It's been that way for months. I've finished several novels that way and my most recent read was 12 Years A Slave by Solomon Northup. I've decided to write up my review of the book and add a little background history for those of you who don't know what it's about. I will keep it brief, because I would encourage everyone to read this book themselves instead of just finding out what happened to Solomon Northup on Wikipedia.

Twelve Years A Slave is the true account written by Solomon Northup of a free black man living in New York who was sold into slavery. Solomon was born to a freed slave and a free black woman in New York. He could read, write, and play the violin. He owned land in Hebron, New York and was a farmer. He married Anne Hampton (a woman of mixed ancestry) and they had three children. While they primarily subsisted from farming, they also found other work on the side. Solomon was occasionally hired as a violinist and that is what happened in 1841.

Two white men who claimed to be part of a traveling circus paid Solomon to accompany them to Washington D.C. as a violinist. He was to play the violin while they performed. They suggested that he acquire papers to prove that he was a free black man, as slavery was still legal in Washington D.C. He traveled with them to D.C., earning a decent wage, until he woke up one morning in a cell. He was beaten until he would no longer claim that he was free. He was also told that if he ever told anyone that he was free, they would torture and then kill him.

They took his name from him and simply called him Platt. He was sold as a fugitive slave from Georgia and he worked as a slave for twelve years. I'm not going to give you all the details of what ultimately happened to him. I want you to read the book. This is one of the greatest cases against slavery ever made and it was made by a literate, interesting, black man who had more skill for writing than many of the people of his day (and probably most of the people living now.) ONE MINOR SPOILER: I couldn't help but laugh when Solomon took the whip from one of his masters, turned on him, and whipped him. I really didn't see that coming.

His book was also made into a movie featuring Brad Pitt and Benedict Cumberbatch in 2013 that won several academy awards. I'm going to provide links to the ebook (which has spent a considerable amount of time in the Top 100 on Amazon), the paperback, and the movie.

Ebook: 12 Years a Slave [Ebook]
Paperback: 12 Years a Slave [Paperback]
DVD: 12 Years a Slave [DVD]
Blu-Ray: 12 Years a Slave [Blu-Ray]

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