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Come Juneteenth

Come Juneteenth
Author: Ann Rinaldi
ISBN 13: 9780152063924
ISBN 10: 152063927
Edition: 1
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 2009-05-04
Format: Paperback
Pages: 256
List Price: $7.99

Tragedy strikes a Texas family when they fail to tell their slaves that they have been freed by Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.


A historical novel, by definition, means that much of the action is imagined. Yet Rinaldi often leaves readers pondering The Great Debate about how accurate a fiction writer must be about historical events. She has a habit of changing characterizations of historical characters to suit herself. This book is a prime example. Apparently, slaves in Texas were not notified of their liberty (it's unclear whether Rinaldi is referring to the Emancipation Proclamation, which was largely toothless since it applied only to states in rebellion during the war, or 1867, two years after the end of the Civil War). The plot, written with a white, mildly defensive tone of apologetics for slavery, is implausible. How likely is it that a white plantation owner would take an almost-white slave under his wing and treat her exactly like his daughter, even though everyone knows she is a slave, owned by the plantation owner's sister who threatens periodically to sell her off? And how likely is it that the son of the plantation owner would fall in love with this girl, impregnate her, and go off to fight Indians on the Texas border, while everyone approves of their upcoming nuptials? No, the big problem of the novel is that the people in Texas somehow kept the fact of the slaves' freedom from them for an additional two years in order to get the crops in and do all the other things slaves did. The theme is the evil of keeping secrets from beloved others. It all ends in tragedy, meaning Rinaldi does not have to deal with the consequences of miscegenation/marriage/childbirth during Reconstruction. Individual readers can decide how valuable such a historical novel is.