Book Review: 47

47 by Walter Mosley

SUMMARY: In his first YA book, acclaimed mystery writer Mosley tells a stirring story of escape from slavery in which science fiction and African American myth blend with the realism of plantation brutality and the courage of resistance. A boy today remembers himself as a 14-year-old slave named 47, living in Georgia in 1832. He recalls being chained, branded, and whipped until the runaway Tall John inspires him to fulfill his destiny and lead his people to freedom. Like the mythical figure High John the Conqueror, the runaway comes from "beyond Africa," and he shows the boy the secrets of the universe. Above all, 47 takes in Tall John's repeated lesson ("Neither master nor n----- be"), which is finally what sets him free. Mosley brings the harsh facts and anguish very close, and the first-person narrative shows and tells how "slavery is the most unbelievable part of this whole story." (adapted from the Booklist review)

OPINION: I have read a lot of books, both fiction and nonfiction, about slavery. Toni Morrison's Beloved is an amazing example, dealing with the emotional impact of slavery on one mother. But 47 is the most unique book about slavery that I have ever come across. It combines historical fiction and science fiction into a magical realism that brings a whole new light to this dark part of American history. Sometimes, it feels like you always learn about the same people and events during Black History Month. The nontraditional style of this book goes beyond the facts that you learn in school. Get a fresh perspective by reading 47!

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