Sharon M. Draper, Author
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008, Fiction
Suitable for : Ages 14 and up
Themes: African-American History, Slavery, Indentured Servants, Escape, Freedom
Awards: 2007 Coretta Scott King Literary Award
Synopsis: “When pale strangers enter 15-year-old Amari’s Village, her entire tribe welcomes them, for in her remote part of Africa, visitors are always a cause for celebration. But these stranger are not here to celebrate. They are here to capture the strongest, healthiest villagers and to murder the rest. They are slave traders. And in the time it takes a gun to fire, Amari’s life as she’s known it is destroyed, along with her family and village.”
Amari is beaten, shackled and herded with other survivors to the ocean, where she is branded and dragged on to a slave ship bound for the colonies. Sailing on this ship of death is full of unimaginable horrors. Survival is for those who are strong. Upon landing in the Carolinas, Amari faces even greater humiliation when she is forced to stand naked in front of buyers and is auctioned to the highest bidder. Amari is purchased by a plantation owner, Percival Derby, who gives her to 16-year-old son, Clay, for a birthday present. Mr. Derby also buys a white indentured servant, Polly.
This unlikely pair, Amari and Polly, become friends on the rice plantation, Derbyshire Farms. They endure the daily hardships, back-breaking work, emotional turmoil, fear, and brutality beyond their imaginations. When things couldn’t get any worse, a murder occurs on the plantation. Amari and Polly have no choice but to escape and run for the freedom they both seek. Freedom is found in a very unlikely place. This novel celebrates the strength and spirit of Amari, and the thousands of slaves like her.
Sharon Draper has written a compelling, realistic and action-packed novel that will keep you in a state of suspense. Draper is a skillful author whose writing is so vivid that you will find your senses heightened. You smell the foul odors of the ship, feel the burn of the branding and beatings, and hear the screams of a child being torn from a parent. Copper Sun is historical fiction and it took Draper 10 years to research and write her novel. Copper Sun is a masterpiece in children’s literature. It is also an important book for Women’s History Month.
Sharon Draper is the granddaughter of a slave. She wrote Copper Sun after visiting Ghana years ago. She “knew she had to tell the story of one girl who might have made that harrowing journey through the door of no return.” “This book is dedicated to all the millions of girls like Amari who died during that process–as well as those who lived and suffered, but endured,” said Draper. “I also dedicate this to all those who came before me–the untold multitudes of ancestors who needed a voice. I speak for them. Amari carries their spirit. She carries mine as well.”
Draper has also won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent for Fears of a Tiger. She won the Coretta Scott King Award for Forged by Fire, and the Coretta Scott King Author Honor for The Battle of Jericho. For more information about all the books she’s published, resources, activities, interviews and information on school visits, click here to visit Draper’s website. I reviewed Draper’s latest novel, Out of My Mind, Jan. 23, 2012.