I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl, Mars Bluff, South Carolina, 1865 (Dear America)

by Joyce Hansen

Paper Book, 1997


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Call number

J DA 1865 SC


New York : Scholastic, 1997.


Twelve-year-old Patsy keeps a diary of the ripe but confusing time following the end of the Civil War and the granting of freedom to former slaves.

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User reviews

LibraryThing member sgerbic
Reviewed December 2006

This diary is about a slave child of 12/13 years old who stutters and limps and is emancipated by the Civil War. She learns to read and write and keeps it a secret from everyone as she knows it is a punishable offense. I wish Hansen had written this book in the language and
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spelling of this child, instead Patsy appears to be a English scholar. The story becomes confusing when the Southern slaves are freed. Rumors and gossip confused illiterate people who could not rely on the written word for information only each other. I think reading about Reconstruction will be extremely interesting. I'm glad Hansen mentioned that education was for the rich and nearly everyone else (including poor whites) could not read. Is this another example of Yankees saying that the South is backwards? My family living in the South at this time would also have been poor and uneducated.

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LibraryThing member lmaddux
Helps kids have an idea about American History. Good for reading aloud
LibraryThing member abbylibrarian
I'm really enjoying the audiobooks from the Dear America series. I can see why kids like them - they bring history to life. This is painless historical fiction!
LibraryThing member KylieBrigham
The "Dear America" series are perfect for young girls (or boys) who have an interest in learning about history while reading an engaging narrative account. This book, specifically, offers a narrative account of a freed slave girl during the Reconstruction era in the South; the accounts of her life,
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written in a journal-style of writing, are thought-provoking and heartfelt. Adolescents may feel a connection to texts like this because of the jouralistic writing style - though the story takes place in a time in history that most students cannot identify with, writing in a diary is something many students do. This makes the book feel relevant and intimate.
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LibraryThing member kbork1
I thought this book was incredible! My favorite part about the book was the way it was formatted. The story was written in a diary format by a girl named Patsy who was a slave, but then became free and her desire to learn and go to school. I loved the diary format because it gives history which
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isn’t always a favorite subject, a less intimidating approach. The diary format also challenges students to recognize and realize that the people who were experiencing different events had feelings too, just like students today have feelings. I think it makes the story and the characters more relatable and an easier concept to understand. I also loved the overall message of determination and perseverance. Patsy never gave up in achieving her goal to read, even when her masters and the Freedman’s Bureau made it difficult to do so by not providing a school and teacher. This story serves as the perfect reminder that everything is possible if you work hard enough and don’t give up.
I would recommend this book for students in upper elementary school. This book is part of huge series of different historical events told from the perspectives of kids. There is definitely a wide range of choices for every student!
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LibraryThing member mom2lnb
Being a lover of history and historical fiction, I've been very excited about trying out the Dear America series for quite some time. Since all the books are written by different authors, I'm not sure how they compare to this one, but I was very pleased with my first foray into the series. I
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Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly chronicles the life of a freed slave girl a few months after emancipation was voted into law. I was pretty sure the book was a work of fiction, but the author did such a good job with making the story believable that I had a few moments of doubt until reading the historical notes at the end which confirmed that it was. Patsy was a sweet, lovely, and very relatable character to read about. She is only about twelve or thirteen when the story open, and to the outside world she isn't much to look at. In addition to being an orphan, Patsy is painfully shy because of a severe stuttering problem, and she also walks with a pronounced limp. Inside though, she is a very brave and strong girl who secretly taught herself how to read and write during a time when the punishment for doing so could have been extremely severe. I really like how Patsy grew a lot throughout the story and became braver and more readily able to speak as time went on. She also takes so much joy and comfort from her reading that when she reads aloud, her stutter all but disappears. I really liked how the author put emphasis on the importance of literacy by showing how much it means to Patsy.

Through reading I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly, I was able to learn some things about what life was like for freed slaves. I found it interesting that their day to day lives weren't all that different after emancipation than they were before it, with the exception that they were now getting paid, albeit very low wages, for the work they were doing. Many of the former slaves from the plantation where Patsy lived left immediately, hoping to buy land of their own or find better work in the cities. Many stayed behind to become sharecroppers or to continue working as servants. There were conflicted feelings among them, and even in Patsy's mind, as to whether it was better to go or stay, and there were certainly positives and negatives to both sides of the coin. It was very interesting to learn about all of this, and the author's historical notes at the end of the book also helped to put things in perspective.

I don't believe I have ever read a book in diary format before, so I don't know if this is a typical example of a book written in that style or not. The one downside I found about this style, at least in the case of this book, is that it could be rather repetitive at times. For example: Every Monday is wash day; nearly every Tuesday the freed slaves have a Union League meeting where they discuss their rights and read the newspapers; nearly every Sunday they meet in the arbor for worship services. There is some variation in each of these entries, so it didn't bother me overmuch, but I could see how this could become tedious to kids who might be reading it. There were also a lot of characters to keep track of, and I found myself forgetting who various people were on occasion, which would probably mean that kids might have trouble with this too. I think the author's purpose was to show how lonely Patsy felt as more and more of the people she knew and had grown up with left the plantation, but it was a little hard to keep them all straight. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the book, and I am definitely looking forward to reading more books in the Dear America series. I think that this series and its companion series, My America, My Name Is America, and The Royal Diaries all have a great deal to offer both child and adult readers.
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Original publication date



0590849131 / 9780590849135



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