Middle passage

by Charles Richard Johnson

Hardcover, 1990





New York : Atheneum, 1990.


A freed slave escapes his bad debts in New Orleans by stowing away on a slave ship en route to Africa.

Media reviews

Both [Middle Passage and The Wizard of Oz] say so much about the illusions of our society and the freedom and disappointments in life; however, the one point that echoes the loudest to me is that Rutherford and Dorothy's experiences lead to self-discovery, which is always a good thing.

User reviews

LibraryThing member danconsiglio
Amazing! Pirate adventure + slave narrative + elder god straight out of Lovecraft shows up and breaks shit. Hells yeah!!! I stuff this book in every high school student's face who comes into my classroom and asks for something to read.
LibraryThing member RoseCityReader
Middle Passage by Charles Johnson won the 1990 National Book Award. I was reluctant to read it because I thought it was going to be too depressing and preachy. It was depressing at times, but it was also, well . . . goofy. Very engrossing, even exciting, but a little haphazard. It has a ne’er-do-well hero, multiple plots, and exciting adventures -- a real sea yarn.

I could not get my brain around the notion that the narrator knew about and referred to things that didn’t happen until decades after the story takes place (he mentions things like time zones and squeegees that didn’t exist in 1830, for example, not to mention philosophical and scientific theories that didn’t develop until much later, such as evolution). But once I decided to let that all flow over me, I enjoyed the book. It certainly packs a lot into its 206 pages.
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LibraryThing member Katie_H
This slim novel started off decently, but quickly headed downhill; I'm surprised that it won the National Book Award. The story is told via ship log entries by Rutherford Calhoun, a freed slave and thief in early 19th century New Orleans. To escape those he is indebted to as well as a marriage he is being forced into, he sneaks aboard an outbound ship. He quickly learns that the ship is a slaver headed for Africa, led by midget captain, Falcon. After leaving Africa with 40 slaves, treasure, and an African "god," the ship suffers many hardships, including mutiny, slave takeover, bad weather, illness, cannibalism, and mystical mumbo jumbo brought on by the "god." The writing has serious flaws: improbable coincidences, events and characters and terrible historical research (events are referenced that occurred AFTER the time period of the novel). The tone of the journal entries did not appear to come from a roguish former slave, even an educated one, more like that of a modern day professor's memoir. Maybe the novel is intended as a parody, and I'm completely missing the point, but I can't find evidence to support that assumption. I can't recommend this.… (more)
LibraryThing member danhammang
A beautiful tale written by a gifted author.




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