Brave Music of a Distant Drum

178p. glossary. Red Deer. 2012. pap. $12.95. ISBN 978-0-88995-470-0.
Gr 9 Up—This novel portrays the difficult and heroic life of a slave from her capture in Africa to her horrifying journey across the Atlantic and her life on a European plantation in Brazil. Elderly, nearly blind, and dying, Ama has led both a privileged and a tormented life, and she wishes to record her life story for her estranged son, Zacharias, who naively believes that his important position will be his ticket out of slavery. He is a clerk and scribe for the Consul of the United Kingdom and arrogantly expects the promise of his freedom to be fulfilled by the wife of his employer. Summoned to his mother's deathbed, he learns the truth about their family history. By the end of his visit, mother and son come to understand each other, and Zacharias resolves to pass on his mother's story to his daughter. Though this edition of the adult novel Ama: A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade (E-reads, 2000) has been toned down for young adult audiences, the author does not shy away from realism, gruesomeness, and candor, including graphic portrayals of rape, beatings, and other atrocities. The story unfolds from alternating perspectives with Ama narrating most of the book. An insightful and, at times, heartbreaking read.—Rita Soltan, Youth Services Consultant, West Bloomfield, MI

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