Days of Tears – Julius Lester

day of tears

Transported to the largest slave auction in U.S. history, listeners feel the anguish of riven families, the greed of buyers and sellers. Lester’s novel is a “paradigm for the thousands of slave auctions.” Written like a play, the work has each reader, with well-honed accents, tell his or her role in the 1859 auction in which Pierce Butler sold his inheritance of 429 slaves, once considered family, in two days to cover gambling debts. A narrator grimly lists the sale records. Interludes offer reflections from years later by Butler, his daughters, and his abolitionist ex-wife, as well as several slaves who escaped via the Underground Railroad. Rain falls in torrents throughout the sale; a slave comments, “This ain’t rain, this is God’s tears.”

This is an excellent novel, though I had a really tough time reading it.  The language used is rough and reflects what the cultural perceptions were towards slaves in these times.  It’s interesting to see so many different perspectives on one event, though, and this is a book well worth reading.  More for older readers.   – Jessica, Teen Librarian

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