As much as I hate to admit it, my mom has the gift of selecting books for me that I absolutely love. I just read Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen. What an incredible read and what a lesson about integrity and the power of words to change your life. Here's a summary courtesy of Random House Books.
A riveting story of the power of literacy against the inhumanity of the slave system in the pre-Civil War South.Travel to the Waller plantation and meet 12-year-old Sarny, a slave whose mother was sold away when she was four. Sarny first sees Nightjohn when he is brought to the plantation with a rope around his neck, his body covered with scars from many beatings. Sarny is drawn to Nightjohn when she learns that he had escaped North to freedom, only to voluntarily return to the South. Nightjohn has a self-imposed mission—to teach slaves how to read and write. He believes knowledge is the key to helping slaves break out of bondage. Sarny is willing to take the risk, even knowing that the penalty for reading is dismemberment.A word from Gary Paulsen..I came into writing Nightjohn through the back door. I worked for several years on research on a book on Sally Hemings, who was a slave girl owned by Thomas Jefferson. While I was doing the research, I ran into many other stories, the slave chronicles and its interviews of ex-slaves in the ’20s and ’30s in America.I sat in my basement reading these things crying every night. And one of the things I ran into several times was the slaves’ attempt to learn to read. For the slaves it was a capital offense to learn to read and they could be killed. They usually didn’t get killed right away because they were too valuable to the slave owner. So the owners would cut a thumb off, or sometimes a toe. They tried to teach each other to read and were successful in many places. Most of the owners were terrified of the slaves learning to read, because they knew they would want to be free.
Also check out the movie version of Nightjohn which was directed by Charles Burnett. AWESOME!!!! Let me know what you think.