The book is a diary kept by a young slave girl called Clotee on a Virginia plantation in 1859. The book belongs to the historical fiction genre and is one of many by the prolific author Patricia C Mckissack.The plot is quite simple in that it follows the life of the slave girl Clotee and depicts the everyday brutality of the slave life. The book’s violence is toned down to a certain extent because it is targeted primarily at a younger audience.The book is well written and charts the growing abolitionist movement that fought for the end of slavery. The motto of this movement was “Freedom is more than a word”.
As Patricia C. McKissack stated in an interview: “Clotee’s voice was difficult for me because I wanted her diary to sound authentic. I could not have her vocabulary too sophisticated, yet I had to give her more command of words than an illiterate person might know in order to tell a good story. Finding that balance was challenging. I achieved it by allowing Clotee’s skills to grow throughout the book. If you will note, I sometimes had Clotee misspell words such as clumbsy for clumsy; confusing words such as compression for expression, suspection for suspicion, and abolistines for abolitionists. Throughout I tried to show her growing, learning, developing her skills, so her voice matures naturally”.
Despite being a work of fiction, McKissack has researched her subject well. As she says, “Writing Clotee’s diary was not much different from some of the nonfiction books I have co-authored with my husband, Fredrick McKissack. I researched for this book the same way I would a nonfiction book. I wanted Clotee’s story to be believable, and the only way to do that was to base it on historical facts. The difference between this story and biography, for example, is that I was able to control all the action. In a biography, the events in a person’s life cannot be changed. In this fictional story, I could change events and create characters and invent a whole world to place them. I liked that!”.