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A Million Nightingales    by Susan Straight order for
Million Nightingales
by Susan Straight
Order:  USA  Can
Pantheon, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Lisa Respers France

A book about slavery isn't supposed to be beautiful. But in the hands of author Susan Straight, the story of Moinette, the protagonist of A Million Nightingales, is at once evocative, moving, brilliant and horrifying.

After a tragedy culminates in a teenaged Moinette being ripped from her mother and the world she knows as a biracial slave on a plantation in antebellum Louisiana, the reader is whisked on her journey, told through her eyes and in her words. Using language infused with color, light, and nature and spiced with the African and Creole experiences of a 19th century slave woman in that region, Straight unfolds a tale of what it truly means to exist as the property of another human being. Moinette is abused, degraded and betrayed, but she never stops longing for the life that only freedom can afford her.

Straight, who is known for giving powerful voice to disenfranchised people of color in her books, delivers in a big way this time around and transports her audience back in time clearly and effectively. Slavery is certainly not new fodder for novelists nor is the mixed race experience in America. But Straight has written such a poetic tome that it seems groundbreaking as a psychological, spiritual and emotional testament to a shameful period in American history, made bearable by the unbreakable will of a people.

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